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Potato (Lat. Solanum tuberosum) is a plant of the Solanaceae family native to the South American Andes. An underground tuber is used in the diet, and after the discovery of America, this plant has conquered the world.
Raw tubers contain on average 75% water, 18.2% starch, 2% protein, 1.5% sugar, 1% cellulose, 0.1% fat, 0.2% acid. It is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates (starches), vitamins C and B, does not contain cholesterol and salt (NaCl) and contains the necessary minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron.
The whole plant except the tubers is toxic because it contains alkaloid solanine. The stem divides into the above-ground and underground parts reach a height of 12-60 inches and they are developed from sprout tubers (vegetative propagation) or from true seed (generative propagation).
Stolons are underground lateral stems, and they grow horizontally. The thickening of the stolon develops a tuber that is a modified part of the underground stem – the stolon. It is the main reserve organ of potatoes and is used for wintering and reproduction. The tuber cutter is in different colors from yellow to purple, and the flesh is usually white to yellow, sometimes purple depending on the variety.
The root is rather shallow, 15-20 inches, only in light soils up to 40 inches deep. It develops on the underground part of the stem and laterally branches up to 20 inches, and in the case of potato sowing, the main root with numerous lateral roots develops. As the potatoes ripen, the root slowly dies.
The potatoes are suitable for temperature without large fluctuations during the growing season as well as during the winter dormancy of the tubers in storage. The minimum soil temperature at planting should be 43-47 °F. The stem with leaves freezes at 30 to 28 °F. The optimum temperature for tuber growth is 62-68 °F. At higher temperatures, tuber formation and yields decrease, and at temperatures above 85 °F, tuber growth ceases completely.
The optimum inclination temperature is 53-59 °F which speeds up the process by 10-12 days. High temperature decreases the yield, but a brief increase of temperature (one week) to 68 °F at the beginning of germination, and then lowering the temperature to 46-50 °F, gives an increase in yield.
Potatoes are a plant that thrives in a moderately humid climate, and in the absence of water, the yield and quality of the tubers are reduced. In dry or wet conditions, secondary tubers are formed on the already developed (primary) tubers, or their germination, deformation, and cracking, with a significant loss of market value. During dry periods, plantations can be irrigated with various forms of rain sprinkles.
Lighter soil types – permeable, loose, sandy-humus, and sandy-loamy soil with a crumbly structure, rich in mineral and organic matter, and with favorable water-air characteristics, are most suitable. It does not suit heavy, wetland with high groundwater levels. Potatoes withstand a more acidic soil reaction and the optimum pH is 5.4-6.5.
Crop rotation is one of the basic principles of potato production. Proper rotation can prevent or reduce the attacks of many harmful organisms, as well as improve the quality of the product itself and obtain high-quality products. Potatoes tolerate monoculture well but are not planted for several consecutive years in the same place for Phyto-hygiene reasons (especially to protect against nematodes). It can come to the same place only after 3-4 years.
The best prerequisites for potatoes are alfalfa, red clover, clover-grass mixtures, peas, and husk, while cereals are slightly less favorable. Perennial legumes and clover-grass mixtures as prerequisites increase yields by up to 20% compared to cereals.
Potatoes should not be planted after plant species from the helper family (tomatoes, eggplants, tobacco, etc.), as well as after fodder. It is a good prerequisite for all other crops because its roots and tubers loosen the soil well and leave it free of weeds. Early potato varieties are a good prerequisite for winter rape and vegetables as a second crop.
Soil cultivation begins with the summer-autumn plowing of the rest of the pre-culture to a depth of about 6 inches, which prevents the development of weeds and loss of soil moisture. If possible, plow up to a depth of 8 inches and loosen the bottom layer a further 5 inches deep. A leak-proof layer must not be allowed to form at the bottom of the furrow.
Very often, with basic tillage, an appropriate amount of manure is introduced into the soil. The treatment must be done good, as it enables a good flow of the machine in planting, quick germination, and root development, which is a prerequisite for evenly germination of tubers.
For the yield of 15 (t/ac) of early potatoes fertilization, it is necessary to add 220-310 pounds of nitrogen, 240-330 pounds of phosphorus, and 360-570 pounds of potassium, and for the yield of 15 (t/ac) of late potatoes fertilization, it is necessary to add 310-485 pounds of nitrogen, 240-330 pounds of phosphorus and 440-770 pounds of potassium.
In order to maximize potato production, it is necessary to bring plenty of nutrients into the soil, so it is advisable to apply fertilization based on organic-mineral fertilizer intake.
For organic potato fertilization, manure is most commonly used, which is usually introduced into the soil in autumn-winter plowing in the amount of 10-15 (t/ac). Manure contains all macro- (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) and microelements (copper, zinc, manganese, etc.).
The positive properties of organic manure are manifested in the increase of the humus component of the soil and the faster warming of the soil in early spring when higher temperatures are needed for the growth and development of the sprouts of the tuber.
Potatoes are rarely supplemented, so all the necessary nutrients are added to the basic fertilization because depending on the early maturity of the variety, plants between 50 and 80 days after planting use almost all the nutrients they need. Adding them food later is unnecessary.
Sowing and planting
For planting, healthy undamaged tubers weighing about 1.7-2 oz should be allocated. On the tuber, we distinguish the umbilical part and the crown. The umbilical part is attached to the stolon by the tuber, and the opposite is the crown, which has buds that can grow into a stem, lateral stalks, and stolons.
Tubers must be cut so that each cut piece (fraction) has 2-3 buds. If these cut pieces (fractions) are smaller then they are planted at a distance of about 10 inches, medium at a distance of 12-14 inches, and the largest tubers of the fraction at a distance of 18-20 inches.
Potatoes for seeding must be of a certain category, of known origin, declared, and with phytosanitary approval for use of the planting material. The seed tubers need to be mostly equal in size and shape, free from deformation and damage.
For higher and better yields, it is recommended that the process of germination is done in light compared to darkness. Direct sunlight adversely affects the inclination. A short day (6-12 hours) is important for the sprouting and further growth and development of the plant. The germination period, depending on the variety, averages 35-60 days. The optimum humidity of the air when folding is 85-90%.
Germination is done in rooms with good ventilation and is done on shelves in boxes or perforated plastic bags. The tubers are moved (rotated) once or twice during the inclination so that they are all equally exposed to light. The top should be turned upwards because most productive germs are formed on that part.
The potatoes are planted when the soil is heated to a temperature above 45 °F. When planting too early in cold and moist soil, the period from planting to sprouting is extended and the crop is often thinned.
Planting time depends on the type of soil, the area of cultivation, and the weather conditions of the year. The optimal time for planting potatoes in the lowlands is from mid-March to early April, and in the hilly-mountainous areas from early to late April. In the southern parts, potato planting begins at the end of January.
The depth of planting depends on the soil type, climatic conditions, and the size of the tuber. The usual planting depth is 3-5 inches, so the tuber is covered with a layer of soil 2-2.5 inches. The number of tubers to be planted depends on their size, shape, and vegetation area.
Measures of plantation care during production are inter-row cultivation, covering, and protection against weeds and diseases. The main objective of inter-row cultivation is to provide the plant with the best possible air-to-air relationships, soil tillage, and destruction of weed plants that appear after planting.
Row crop cultivation is carried out immediately after the emergence of crops in light soils, and in heavier soils, it is recommended that one cultivation be carried out before crops emerge. The number of cultivations should be adapted to the agroecological conditions of production.
Pruning is carried out at the plant height of 6-8 inches in order to create enough space for the root system and stolons to form tubers to grow on several floors. Tilting should be carried out at the optimum time at a certain height of the plant as later rattles can damage parts of the plant.
Potato tubers are removed from the soil when they are slightly detached from the stolon and when their skin is sufficiently hardened to prevent them from peeling off during removal. If the above-ground part of the plant is preserved and of high mass, chemical treatment is recommended for faster drying.
Today, potatoes are harvested with potato harvesters and regular harvesters. Harvesters are usually single or double-row harvesting potato tubers, separating them from the ground, sorting by size, and putting them in a container or transport vehicle. Small potato harvesting is done with a hoe and plow, and in larger production with a harvester and a combine, which can be self-propelled or towed by a tractor.
Immediately after extraction, the old “maternal”, damaged, diseased and inclined tubers are separated by screening. The potatoes are stored in cellars, pantries and special floor storage units with compartments at the optimum storage temperature.
During storage, constant tuber control and ventilation with outside warm air at 53-64 °F are required, with high relative humidity of 85-95%. Due to the spread of the disease, it is not advisable to raise the temperature above 70 °F. The process of “treatment” of tubers is carried out all the time during the filling of the warehouse, which usually takes 2-3 weeks.
After treatment’, the potatoes should be cooled to the storage temperature according to the purpose of the potatoes. The temperature is gradually lowered from 34 to 36 °F a day. The seed potatoes are cooled and stored at 35-40 °F, industrial at 3-4 °F, table potatoes for up to three months at 40-45 °F, and for up to six months stored at 37-40 °F. Ideal conditions for long storage of table (consumable) potatoes are temperature 39-41 °F and relative humidity of 92-95%
If the temperature of the edible potatoes drops to 35-37 °F due to poor insulation, the potatoes will become sweet. The resulting undesirable sugar in the tubers can be eliminated by heating and keeping it at a temperature of 59-68 °F for 14 days. Tubers will consume sugar with intense breathing and potatoes will again be good to eat.
By preserving the potatoes, they lose mass, especially at the beginning, during the period of wound healing. In the first month, mature tubers lose 1-3% and unripe tubers 3-5% of their weight. In addition to the aforementioned loss, the mass is reduced by evaporation of water and increased respiration from potatoes. Germinated tubers also have a loss of germ mass and losses caused by disease, which at the end of the storage period can amount to 7-10% of the total stored amount of potatoes.
The best tools
A potato hook or hoe with two long, slightly curved teeth is a better tool for extracting potatoes than gardening forks. Stand at a right angle to the row and push the teeth under each plant with one stroke. Then simply pull the handle of the hoe and all the stems above the soil surface.
You can transfer the potato crop to the cellar, depository or storage room if it is dark and not too cold. A special cellar buried in the ground was once a favorite place to store potatoes and apples.
The potatoes should not be exposed to light as they will turn green and develop bitter and poisonous alkaloid solanine. Store them in wooden crates or bags and make sure that no light comes in where you put them. Avoid storing it in plastic, it will “sweat” and “rot” in it.
Fighting potato beetle
It eats potato leaves and can very quickly completely destroy plants.
Spray. If you find a potato beetle on your potatoes, destroy it with an organic insecticide containing rotenone. Apply to the tops and backs of the leaves and repeat the same procedure for a week. It’s even easier to collect larvae and eggs from leaves by hand.
Outsmart them. Never plant potatoes on the same parcel two years in a row. Beetles will winter in the soil and attack new plants next year. Plant the tubers in a bottomless tub filled with fresh soil.
Intimidate them. The traditional method of deterring potato beetles is to plant onions and garlic around the potatoes.
Prevent potatoes from getting lenticel spots
There is no cure for potato lenticel spots that, if there is a lot of rain, can ruin the crop. If your garden is in a climate with rainy summers, choose a speckle-resistant variety. Use only well-digested fertilizer on the potato billets as fresh fertilizer will encourage infection.
Spray the plants with copper oxychloride. Perform the first treatment when the plants reach a height of 12 inches and then spray every two to three weeks, or every 10 days if the weather is rainy. If symptoms occur, remove heavily infected leaves to prevent tuber infestation. Get rid of it, but don’t put it in a compost pile.