The potato is one of the most commercially important crops in the world. Next to corn, wheat, and rice, it is the fourth most-produced food crop globally, with production reaching 379 million metric tons in 2016. The world’s biggest producers are China, India, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. American potato production reached 19.95 million metric tons in 2016—an amount equivalent to $3.87 billion.
With the huge commercial value of potato as a food crop, it is important for growers to adopt best farming practices to ensure the crops health and the quality of their yields. Here are some suggestions to put into practice.
Utilize appropriate technologies
Thanks to breakthroughs in modern science and technology, farmers today have more effective and specialized tools available at their disposal to ensure the commercial success. These include technologies like modern machinery, equipment telematics, smart soil and crop sensors, biological pest control, precision agriculture technologies, automation technologies, and agricultural aerial spectral imagery.
The agricultural aerial spectral is one of the biggest breakthroughs in modern agriculture. By analyzing spectral images taken at different wavelengths of light by specialized camera equipment from an aircraft, farmers can easily identify multiple issues affecting their crops. These include irrigation, fertilizer, pest, and diseases. One commercial farm in North Dakota, for example, used spectral imaging to identify pivot irrigation issues, which helped prevent underwatering and overwatering their potatoes—both of which can greatly affect the quality and commercial value crops.
Use only certified seed potatoes
Before planting, make sure the seed potatoes are sourced from certified dealers. The seeds themselves should be well-graded and uniform in size. Later on, your plants will be free of any diseases such as bacterial wilt, which could have been carried over from previous planting seasons.
Quarter your seed potatoes if you only have a limited supply
While it may seem like a good idea, you don’t necessarily have to plant an entire seed potato for your crop to flourish and succeed. Instead, you can section each seed potato into quarters or more, thus multiplying your stock many times over. Simply ensure that each section has at least two visible sprouts or “eyes,” and that it’s not much smaller than a chicken egg.
Prepare your field well in advance
It’s always prudent to prepare your field, no matter what the crop is. Potatoes are no exception. Scour your field for any perennial weeds, and remove as many of them as you can. Use non-selective herbicides to ensure that they are adequately controlled. The plot itself should also be ploughed to a fine tilth, and soil amendments such as farmyard manure incorporated evenly throughout.
Space your furrows evenly, and fertilize them well
Furrows should be made with a depth of at least 15 centimeters and spaced 75 cm apart. Seeds should also be planted with a generous space, from 30-35 cm to 35-40 cm, depending the size of the seed itself. This ensures that the plants will have sufficient space to grow as well as minimize competition for nutrients.
Speaking of nutrients, the furrows should also be well-fertilized prior to planting to guarantee that the potato plants have the maximum amount of nutrients they need once they start to tuberize after germination. Finally, make sure that seeds are adequately covered after planting—your field should look completely flat, furrows and all. This prevents sunlight from reaching the tubers and turning them green, which renders them poisonous and thus inedible.
Scout for pests and diseases regularly
Once your potatoes have finished germination and there are visible sprouts poking through the earth, it’s when your crop is the most vulnerable to pest infestation and disease infection. As such, you need to mitigate this by checking for pests regularly. Scout for sucking insects such as aphids and whiteflies, as well as more serious threats such as tuber moths, caterpillars and the American leaf miner. Use insecticides prudently in this case because abuse or improper application could drastically affect your yield. To ward off diseases such as potato blight, a weekly spray of fungicide should suffice.
By following these six tips, your crop of potatoes should readily flourish in good health and provide you with a substantial and commercially profitable yield.
This is a guest post from Madelaine Volfson in http://www.ceresimaging.net