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Potato

Organic Cultivation of Potato

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Organic potato production generally fits into a planned rotation on an organic farm. It is possible for a specialist potato farmer to grow organic potatoes on an organic farm. All other organic standards will still need to be implemented and the farmer will have to register with a certification body. It may also be possible to have a single field in organic crop production, providing it operates a suitable planned rotation, and organic potatoes can be adequately isolated from any other potatoes grown on the farm. Organic potato production is of interest to many farmers as the crop:

  • Is in demand from consumers
  • Can be profitable
  • Can be a starting point for a break crop from grass in the rotation
  • Requires cultivation which help control weeds

Challenges of organic potatoes

Organic potato production has a number of challenges that must be tackled:

  • Providing adequate nutrients
  • Preventing potato blight
  • Weed control

Organic producers have to rely on alternative approaches rather than artificial fertilizers and synthetic chemical herbicides and fungicides.

Cultural practices

Soil

The soil should be friable, porous and well drained. The optimum pH range is 4.8 to 5.4. It is a cool weather crop. Potato is mostly grown as a rainfed crop. It is cultivated in regions receiving a rainfall of 1200 – 2000 mm per annum.

Season and planting

Hills

Summer

:

March – April

Autumn

:

August – September

Irrigated

:

January – February

Plains

October – November

Propagation

Use disease free, well sprouted seeds weighing 40 – 50 grams. Plant the tubers at 20 cm apart. Seed rate is 3000 – 3500 kg/ha.

Selecting potato varieties

In selecting varieties for organic production there are two simple rules:

  • Grow varieties suited to organic production
  • Grow varieties which best suit the intended market as with all organic produce, grow what will sell, not what you want to sell

Kufri Swarna, Kufri Giriraj and Kufri Chipsona- II are suited for organic farming since they are resistant to blight and nematode.

Preparation of field

Prepare the land to fine tilth. In hills provide an inward slope of 1.40 in the terraces. Provide drainage channel along the inner edge of the terrace. Form ridges and furrows with a spacing of 45 cm between the ridges either by hand hoe or ridger.

Irrigation

Irrigate the crop 10 days after planting. Subsequently irrigation should be given once in a week.

Manuring

  • Green manuring with lupin 60 days before planting
  • Sprinkling horn manure to the soil @ 75 g/ha by dissolving it in 40 litres of water at the time of land preparation
  • Application of well decomposed farm yard manure @ 50 t/ha at the time of land preparation
  • Application of biodynamic compost @ 5 t/ha at the time of land preparation
  • Application of vermicompost @ 5 t/ha at the time of land preparation
  • Application of neem cake @ 1250 kg/ha at the time of land preparation
  • Application of biofertilizers like Azospirillum and Phosphobacteria @ 25 kg each/ha at the time of land preparation
  • Spraying cow pat pit @ 5 kg/ha in 100 liters of water on 45th, 60th and 75th day after planting
  • To increase the pH of the soil, application of dolomite @ 10 tonnes/ha should be done

After cultivation

The critical period of weed competition is up to 60 days and it is essential to keep the field weed free during that period. Take up the first hoeing on 45th day without disturbing stolons. Second hoeing and earthing up should be done at 60th day. As no herbicides are permitted, weed control is carried out by:

  • Choosing fields with no major weed problems
  • Flame weeding of weed seedlings before the potato tops emerge – this can be expensive
  • Mechanical weed control just before tops meet between rows
  • Limited hand weeding of any large invasive weeds

Growth regulators

  • Foliar spraying of panchagavya @ 3 per cent at 10 days interval from 1st month after sowing
  • Spraying 10% vermiwash 5 times at 15 days interval from one month after sowing
  • Foliar spray of horn silica @ 2.5 g/ha in 50 litres of water on 65th day after sowing

Plant protection

Pests

Aphids

  • Foliar spray of 10% nettle leaf extract on 45th, 60th and 75th day after sowing
  • Foliar spray of 10% garlic- chilli extract on 45th, 60th and 75th day after sowing
  • Foliar spray of 3% neem oil

Cutworms

  • Install light trap during summer to attract adult moths
  • Install sprinkler irrigation system and irrigate the field in day time to expose the larvae for predation by birds
  • Application of pyrethrum bait in soil

White grubs

  • Summer ploughing to expose the pupae and adults
  • Install light traps between 7 pm and 9 pm in April – May months
  • Hand pick the adult beetles in the morning
  • Hand pick the 3rd instar grub during July – August
  • Application of Metarrhizium anisopliae @ 20 kg/ha at the time of land preparation

Potato tuber moth

  • Avoid shallow planting of tubers. Plant the tubers at 10 – 15 cm depth
  • Install pheromone traps @ 20 numbers per hectare
  • Earth up at 60 days after planting to avoid potato tuber moth egg laying in the exposed tubers
  • To control foliar damage, spray 5% neem seed kernel extract
  • Keep pheromone traps in godowns
  • In godowns cover the upper surface of potato with Lantana or Eupatorium branches to repel ovipositing moths

Diseases

Potato blight

Potato blight cannot be cured and particularly in an organic situation, avoidance is definitely the best policy.

  • Blight is not generally a problem with early harvested, early varieties
  • Plant early varieties if suitable/possible
  • Plant healthy, blight free seed
  • Select varieties with high blight resistance
  • Listen for and pay attention to blight warnings
  • If the blight pressure is high apply a permitted fungicide
  • Remove ground creepers which serve as a source of infection
  • Spraying Agni Hotra ash (200 g Agni Hotra ash soaked in 1 liter cow urine for 15 days and diluted in 10 litres of water before spraying) 3 times at one month interval from one month after planting

Brown rot

  • Select disease free seeds
  • Give proper drainage facilities
  • Remove and destroy the affected plants

Virus diseases

  • Use virus free potato tubers
  • Rogue the virus affected plants regularly
  • Control the aphid vectors by spraying 10% nettle leaf extract on 45th, 60th and 75th day after planting

Nematodes

  • Avoid growing potato year after year in the same field
  • Follow rotation of crop with vegetables and green manure
  • For cyst nematode, a resistant variety called Kufri Swarna can be grown
  • Application of Pseudomonas fluorescens @ 10 kg/ha can be done
  • Sow mustard as intercrop at the time of potato planting and harvest the mustard greens on 45th day for the control of potato cyst nematode

Haulm removal

Only physical means of haulm removal are permitted. These include:
a) Flailing (haulm chopping)
b) Haulm pulling
c) Flaming 
Chemical methods of desiccation or application of sulphuric acid are not permitted.

Storage

Normal methods of storage apply to organic potatoes however,

  • Adequate isolation from non organic potatoes will be required to avoid substitution or contamination. This may require visibly identifiable varieties only.
  • Sprout suppressants and fungicides are not permitted in store.

Yield

15 – 20 t/ha in duration of 120 days.

 


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Potato

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Scientific Name

: Solanum tuberosum

Family

: Solonaceae Family

Colour

: White, bule, purple or pink

Common names

: Potato

Best Season

: October to March

Nutritional Value

: Calories: 150; 20% starch; Fat: 0.2 g. 
Rich in iron (skin); fibre (skin); glucids, Vitamin C (especially new potatoes and yellow-fleshed varieties); Vitamin B, mineral salts - magnesium and potassium per 100 g of potatoes.

 

Potatoes, a hardy annual plant provides one of the most popular vegetables in the home garden. It is an important staple food and one of the largest food crops in the world. They originate in the Andean mountain region of South America.

The edible part is the swollen portion of the underground stem which is called a tuber and is designed to provide food for the green leafy portion of the plant. Potatoes are covered with a skin and have small "eyes" on their surface from which new buds will emerge. It is an easily grown plant with a good taste and is a very good source of vitamins, fiber and minerals such as copper, potassium, iron and magnesium.

Propagation and Planting
Propagation is through seeds. Potatoes are usually grown from small tubers, called seed potatoes. Seeds selected should be free from diseases. Either a small tuber as a whole or a piece of a larger tuber containing at least one eye can be planted. Large tubers can be cut into pieces with 2-4 'eyes' on each piece. Dry these out for two days in a cool, dry room before planting.

Potatoes require full sun to grow and prefer a slightly acid soil with a pH of 5.8-6.5. When planting them, be sure to allow about a foot of space between each tuber. Rows should have about two feet of space between them. Dig the soil to a depth of 10-15 inches and cover with 2-3 inches of soil and compost at the bottom. Plant seeds in it, the depth allows good root and foliage development. As the potatoes grow up, add more soil and compost. Keep potato plants well watered throughout the summer, especially during the period when they are in flower, and immediately thereafter when the plant is creating new tubers.

Varieties 
There about about 100 varieties of this starch tuber plant. They range in size, shape, color, starch content and flavor. Their flesh may be white or colored like the skin. Small types are called "fingerling" or "new" potatoes, larger potatoes are called "earlies" or "main crop".

Norland is a popular red variety that matures early and have  medium size tubers. Russet the white skinned potato variety, matures early and have medium size tubers. Kennebec a white skinned potato have medium to large oblong tubers, is a vigorous grower, excellent yielder and is resistant to late blight disease. Katahdin is a white skinned potato variety which have medium-flattened spherical tubers and is a dependable yielder. Yukon Gold Large, yellow-fleshed variety.  Red Pontiac, a red skinned variety which is easy to grow, has large round potatoes. Russet Norkotah is a large potatoes have medium to large long tubers. Chieftain a  red skinned potato variety have large tubers.  Norgold Russet have medium size tubers, oblong to long tuber shape.

Problems and Care : 
Most potato diseases are seed borne so planting with certified and high quality potato seed is very important in potato production. When large diseased tubers are cut into pieces for planting, this can lead to spreading of diseases and losses. These seed borne diseases have no cure once infected. So care should should be taken while choosing the seed.

Early blight is the most common fungal disease of potatoes. Irregular brown or black spots appear on the leafs which expand in size and are frequently surrounded by a yellow halo. It may also affect tubers and fruit. Applying fungicides such as mancozeb, Bordeaux or chlorthalonil will help to prevent early blight. High soil fertility also help reduce severity of this disease. Late blight is another fungal disease which is capable of wiping out your entire potato crop. Infected potatoes have shallow, brownish or purplish lesions on the surface of the tuber and on leaves black lesions appear within 3-7 days of infection.The disease thrives in wet weather conditions through spores that can travel through air causing infection. Blackleg is a bacterial disease that can infect potatoes. Once a plant is infected, control is difficult, so prevention is usually best. Sometimes treatment with fixed copper fungicides can be effective. Verticillium Wilt is another disease that can infect potatoes which can be controlled by applications of a sulphur fungicide every 7-10 days. Insect pests that are a major concern are Colorado potato beetle, leafhoppers, aphids and armyworms.

Buying certified disease resistant seed potato varieties and destroying all diseased potatoes and plants can help prevent  diseases. Avoid over-watering and planting in areas where other infected plants have grown. Compost and other rotted organic materials,  help keep soil borne pests and diseases under control. They also help the soil  retain moisture, thus encouraging strong growth. Compost fed plants are less attractive to pests than those given artificial fertilizers. Spraying of sulphur dust and milk on plants also help partially in controlling pests.

 


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Potato

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The history of the potato has its roots in the windswept Andes Mountains of South America. It is an austere region plagued by fluctuating temperatures and poor soil conditions. Yet the tough and durable potato evolved in its thin air (elevations up to 15,000 feet), climbing ever higher like the people who first settled the region.

The tough pre-Columbian farmers first discovered and cultivated the potato some 7,000 years ago. They were impressed by its ruggedness, storage quality and its nutritional value. Western man did not come in contact with the potato until as late as 1537 when the Conquistadors tramped through Peru. And it was even later, about 1570, that the first potato made its way across the Atlantic to make a start on the continent of Europe.

Though the tuber was productive and hardy, the Spanish put it to very limited use. In the Spanish Colonies potatoes were considered food for the underclasses; when brought to the Old World they would be used primarily to feed hospital inmates.


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