How to grow potatoes with precision
Potatoes are an interesting crop but growing them leaves little room for mistakes.
Potato have unusual nutritional requirements, but this might not always be considered as skilled potato cultivators often have an empirical approach that works.
Then there is pest control. Potatoes are one of the most chemically sprayed crops because a preventive management strategy is needed, in order to pre-empt pests. This requires both good timing and forecasts. Last but not least, potato cultivation is largely about producing the right quality and not just focusing on quantity. This is true for all crops to some extent, but when it comes to potatoes it’s extremely important that certain quality requirements are met in order for the crop to be saleable at all. This is not just about the overall quality. Potatoes can’t have ugly spots, or be too large or small. They must also have the right dry matter content and have proper cooking properties. We’re talking about several specific precision aspects of quality that are crucial.
All of this makes precision cultivation particularly suitable for potatoes. And as well there needs to be a high a level of accuracy, with resource efficiency to make growing this crop as profitable as possible.
What is precision agriculture? Normally this refers to a growing system with several high tech features which enables a precision supply of various resources, such as water or nutrition, to meet the plant’s exact needs, at the right time and in the right place.
There are three objectives behind the aim for precision:
• Saving resources, as you can supply the crop with the resources on demand, at the right time, directly to the plant organ that assimilates it, and with low losses
• You can better meet the current needs of the crop, and
• You can easily manipulate the crop, in order to get closer to the target for yield level and quality.
Irrigation in precision agriculture There are different approaches to implementing precision agriculture, but the most elementary is a highprecision irrigation system that delivers water exactly where you want, in exactly the right flow. Through this system you can then control the nutrient supply, and it’s possible to incorporate chemical pest control with the irrigation water.
Plant nutrition in precision agriculture
Potatoes, like all crops, need a properly balanced and complete nutrient flow from the environment into the plant. I have noticed that this is often misunderstood. When nourishing the soil the purpose is to create conditions for such a flow. In precision agriculture, the nutrient supply approaches the intrinsic nutritional need of the crop, as the nutrients are supplied immediately when needed directly to the root zone, and adjusted according to the absorption capacity. You can never look at only one nutrient at a time, because the effect of each nutrient on the crop depends strongly on how much the crop has obtained of the other nutrients. And you must differentiate between the need of the crop and the impact of the soil on the system. Step one is to understand what the crop needs, step two is to understand the impact of the soil, and step three is to understand how to supply it. >
Nitrogen is the most growth and yield limiting nutrient for potatoes, even though it's not the nutrient in highest demand.
Digging Deep Joachim Nachmansohn Joachim Nachmansohn is an international fertilizer and soil & water management expert. Through his company Nachmansohn Consulting & Co he, among other things, work with his unique trademark Demand-Driven Fertilization and environmental issues.