CROP MANAGEMENT PRACTICES IN SEED POTATO FARMING
Crop Management refers to the agricultural practices used to improve the growth, development, and yield of agricultural crops. During crop growth, it is necessary for potato farmers to observe good agricultural practices (GAPS) which contribute towards achieving quality yields. The following are some basic crop management practices in seed potato farming.
- Climate requirement – Potato grows best in cool conditions with temperatures ranging 10 to 23°C and rainfall of 900-1400 mm per year. Three months of rainfall is required for good growth and an altitude of 1500m-2300m above sea level.
- Soil Testing – Take soil samples from the appropriate sites for testing for Fusarium wilt, bacterial wilt, potato cyst nematode (PCN) and nutrient analysis by a recognized laboratory before planting on the selected site.
Soils – Select a site that has not grown potato, tomato, suja or pepper (solanaceous crops) for at least four seasons. Potato does best in loose, well-drained soil, that has been worked deeply (2 jembe’s deep) to remove all clumps. Poorly drained soils often cause poor stand and low yields, while heavy soils can prevent shoots from emerging, roots and tubers from growing in the soil, and cause tubers to be small and deformed. To prepare for planting, the land should be cleared and ploughed.
Field ready for planting potatoes
- Seed – Disease free or certified seed tubers should be used. 1 ha will require 30 to 50 (50 kg) bags of seed tubers, depending on their size. Seed tubers should have sprouts before planting to be sure that dormancy has finished. Be sure to use quality seed obtained from healthy plants. You can save your own seed by selecting healthy plants during the growing season and using tubers from these plants for seed, or obtaining seed from trusted seed producers. Do not use small potatoes from the market for seed, they are unmarketable because they are small and full of disease. There are many varieties available, and variety choice will depend on many things, such as your location and market
- Planting – Spacing: 75 to 90 cm between rows, and 30 cm between tubers in a row. Plant tubers 10 to 15 cm deep. Fertilizer is applied before planting. The fertilizer should be well mixed with soil to avoid direct contact with the seed tuber. The tubers should be placed with the sprouts facing upwards. Planting should be done before the rains start, but when the soil is moist.
30cm between seeds 75 cm between rows
- Soil Moisture – Essential during emergence, tuber initiation and tuber expansion stages. Usually potato crop relies on rainfall and where it is irregular it can be supplemented with irrigation. Irrigate up to a stage when the soil is squeezed and released it does not leave mud in the hand. Ensure the quality of irrigation water is tested for suitability
- Crop Protection – Timely spraying and correct choice of crop protection solutions saves costs and prevents disease spread giving plant sufficient time to grow and give high yields. Regular scouting for pests and diseases to determine when to control is recommended.
Timely spraying and correct choice of crop protection solutions saves costs and prevents disease spread
- Hilling – Hilling or earthing up should be done twice, the first at 75% emergence and the second 2-3 weeks later. Adequate ridge volume is essential to give ample room for tuber expansion, to prevent potato tuber moth from tunneling the tubers and to prevent them from being exposed to light.
- Rogueing – A seed grower has to keep on removing (rogueing) off types and diseased plants from the seed crop to ensure purity and health of the seed. Rogueing should start early (as soon as disease symptoms are visible) and done continuously till crop maturity.
Source from: KEPHIS SEED POTATO PRODUCTION AND CERTIFICATION GUIDELINES & POTATO PRODUCTION GUIDE AND HANDBOOK