Ayrshire early potatoes, that are usually the first potatoes of the year grown in Scotland to be harvested, are now appearing in the shops about a week to ten days later than in a normal year. They are renowned across the country for their quality and flavour, and are a treat that I, along with many others, look forward to every year. Served with corned beef and a sprinkling of chopped spring onion, and eaten with a knob of butter, they make for a most enjoyable meal.

Due to its light sandy soil, sheltered coastline and early warming by the Gulf Stream, farms in Ayrshire, and particularly along the Ayrshire coast have always been able to plant their crop a few weeks earlier than in other parts of Scotland. Currently Ayrshire grows about 800 acres of early potatoes, mostly in the Girvan area.

The reason they are being lifted later this year is down to the late spring that held back early potato crops all round the country. For instance, Jersey's early potato harvest was almost a month later this spring, with yields back by about a fifth on the year after the Beast from the East frosted off young plants barely out of the ground. That left the Jersey potato industry having to reschedule deliveries to supermarkets.

Jersey Royal growers said this season is the worst they have known for at least 40 years - since the practice of covering early potatoes with plastic was first introduced to the island in the 1970s. It's reckoned that the final crop may only yield about 24,000 tonnes this year compared with as much as 28,000-30,000t in a more normal year.

Other early potato areas such as Cornwall, Pembrokeshire and Suffolk have all been hit by poor weather, although the crop on the Ayrshire coast seems to have got off comparatively lightly, with yields currently running about 10 per cent down on the year. Prices may be firmer than usual, but that may not make up for the shortfall in yield.

The first crop of early potatoes to be grown in Ayrshire was planted back in 1859 as an experiment as the result of a visit to the Channel Islands (where farmers had been planting early crops for many years) by two Ayrshire farmers who studied how they managed to grow potatoes so early in the year. The development of the crop was helped by the completion of a railway line in 1860 that linked Girvan to Glasgow that allowed the potatoes to be delivered "freshly picked" to shops in the city.

Traditionally, nutrient-rich seaweed widely available along the coastal region, was collected - a process known as "wrecking" - and spread on the fields as a fertiliser, as well as manure from the abundant livestock kept in the area. Many believed that it was the seaweed that gave Aryshire earlies their distinctive flavour - but the practice died out years ago as the labour force shrank and became more expensive. That, along with the modern technique of growing the crop under plastic to protect it from frosts, and changes in the varieties grown, have led to subtle changes in the flavour of the potatoes.

Mind you, it's not just the early potato crop that has been affected by the cold, late spring. Lambing in our hills and uplands can best be described as a disaster for many, with losses of ewes and lambs much higher than usual, and there will be a lot less lambs to sell this autumn.

Crops sown later than usual this spring due to adverse planting conditions caused by the rain are also predicted to yield less grain and straw. Barley needs to be sown by April 20th - after that yields suffer as a result of the plants not producing as many tillers. Grain planted in May, or "gowk corn", doesn't usually grow out to be much of a crop and there are now real fears of another national shortage of straw this autumn.

Farmers spend a lot of their time discussing agricultural policies and political decisions, and lobbying governments for changes, but the reality is that the weather often has a bigger influence over the bottom line of their businesses.

Droughts or poor weather at harvest can lead to crop failures. Then again, favourable growing seasons around the world can lead to a global glut that depresses prices.

The only thing we can be sure of is that while we often seem to have little or no influence over politicians, we certainly have none over Mother Nature.