HL Deb 18 February 1942 vol 121 cc922-3

My Lords, I beg to ask the first question standing in my name.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government, whether they can state, in connexion with the experiment in potato growing carried out at Dolfor in Montgomeryshire, the number of acres sown, the yield per acre, the total cost of the experiment and the estimated value of the crop.]


My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk, I have been asked to reply. As a mere statistical answer to the noble Lord's question would give a misleading impression in regard to this land, it is necessary to give a brief explanation of the circumstances. The original intention of the Montgomery War Agricultural Executive Committee early in 1941 was to reclaim this land by ploughing and cultivating during the spring and summer in preparation for cropping in 1942. In May, 1941, however, a surplus of seed potatoes was available in the hands of the Ministry of Food, and, despite the late date of planting—June—it was decided, notwithstanding the possibility of failure, to utilize the seed and to produce at any rate some food from the land in 1941. The possibility of failure was increased by the non-availability of lime but, with the help of machinery provided and operated by the Oxford Institute of Agricultural Engineering Research, the work was undertaken.

It should be emphasized that the reclamation and cultivation carried out in connexion with the potato crop will be of considerable value in regard to the normal cropping of the land in 1942, and the total cost should not, therefore, be regarded as a proper charge against the 1941 crop. Moreover, from the point of view of research the experiment has provided a valuable demonstration that potatoes, normally very tolerant of lime deficiency, will not grow on bracken land without lime. The area involved was 650 acres of land, hitherto completely unproductive, and the yield per acre varied from four tons to practically nothing. The cost, exclusive of tractor fuel not yet brought into account, is estimated at £11,630, and the estimated value of the 1941 crop is £2,100.