Fred Hartley's Chipping Potatoes


The Best Fenland Chipping Potatoes

Fred Hartley Estates Ltd is currently growing 160ha of potatoes with varieties including Maris Piper, Markies, Sigitta, Melody, Jelly, Ramos and Compass. To ensure we produce the highest quality potato we need to have the best quality seed available to us. The majority of our Maris Piper has been bought from James Gordon for the past 50 years, whos farm is located in Portmahomack, Scotland. With it being so far north it vastly reduces the chance of any viral disease contaminating the seed. The Markies are sourced from Agrico who are a well established seed company producing high quality seed for many other varities. We also multiply some of our seed in Shropshire where the warmer climate gives an earlier harvest date for the following season

Seed preperation and storage is very important to ensure the potato crop gets the best possible start. At Fred Hartley Estates we remove the seed from the tonne boxes they get delivered in and grade them into smaller 20kg trays. This allows for better ventilation and temperature control over the winter months, the seed is chitted before planting by increasing the temperature to give the potatoes a head start once they are planted in March.
The most important work when growing potatoes is done before they are even in the ground. Taking good care of your seed is the first and the second is to prepare the best seed bed possible when planting. The rows to be planted are carefully marked out in the field before preparing the seedbed. To do this we use a 300hp Fendt tractor with a 4m power harrow on the front linkage and a 4m baselier on the back, producing a fine seed bed for the 4 row planter to follow. This method minimizes the amount of passes on the field reducing both soil damage and fuel, so the impact on the environment.    
7 Once the crop is established it is essential that careful monitoring is carried out regarding disease, pest control and water uptake which will ensure a healthy, high yielding crop. The most common disease associated with potatoes is blight and can be controlled by timely spraying and Fred Hartley Estates uses disease prediction software. This helps us to maximise the effectiveness of the spray so reduce applications and reduce the impact on the environment. Water uptake by the potato plant is monitored by a neutron probe buried in the soil, this allows us to see when the crop is “thirsty” so we can irrigate. This has benefits for the health and skin finish of the potato and also to ensure we don’t waste an increasingly scarce resource as water.
Once the crop has reached maturity it is harvested with either green top or after being desiccated. The crop is topped and harvested by the same tractor, this must be done with great care to reduce bruising and other damage. Our harvesters are fitted with cameras so the driver can have a clear view of what’s going on at the back of the harvester. They are also equipped with water tanks so during dry periods they can wet the potatoes to help them slide over one another reducing bruising. The flexible loading elevator, along with the custom made drop-down side trailor, facilitates loading again reducing damage.
The crop is then taken to our central grading station where the clods and damaged potatoes are removed, this is the last time anyone handles the potatoes as it is fully automated. They are weighed into 25kg bags to within 40grs to ensure as little waste as possible. The bag continues along the conveyor belt where it is stitched and manoeuvred into place before being placed on a pallet, when a tonne is reached the pallet is ejected and another one started.