Alistair Neill, a Prime Agriculture potato agronomist based in Norfolk, shares his four essential tips on getting potato crops off to the best start possible, beginning with ensuring good crop establishment.
1. Cut back on cultivations
Soil compaction can jeopardise potato establishment and yield because it restricts root growth, consequently limiting water and nutrient uptake. Therefore, if it’s possible, growers should reduce cultivations or work at a shallower depth through min-till practices to avoid overworking the soil and creating plough pans.
Being patient and checking soil moisture throughout the soil profile is recommended to avoid cultivating or planting when it’s too wet and causing soil smearing. This can also act as a barrier to rooting.
2. Check seed quality
Thoroughly check the quality of seed when it arrives on-farm and try and order it well ahead of planting time to give you more time to check the contents properly when it arrives.
It’s a good idea to work closely with a trusted seed supplier to reduce the risk of disease being brought on-farm through seed, as well as matching the seed grade, variety and size grade to that of your order. The seed supplier should also provide information such as the seed’s chronological age, which will aid seed rate calculations.
De-bag the seed into boxes upon arrival and store in a cool dry place to reduce storage diseases and sprouting – humid conditions are a perfect place for fungal and bacterial pathogens such as black scurf and rhizoctonia.
Top tip: Sometimes using a magnifying glass to inspect the surface of tubers is required because rhizoctonia hyphae isn’t always visible with the naked eye.
3. Ensure seed rate calculations are correct
To maximise your marketable yield, correct seed rates and seed spacings are crucial. For example, a grower could use seed rates to bring harvest dates forward by planting at a lower density, giving tubers more space to reach their market specification sizes quicker.
Using Crop4Sight can help you calculate seed rates tailored to the potato variety and market specification that you are growing for. The app takes into consideration chronological age, which influences stem and tuber numbers later in the crop growth stages and will be important for predicting and achieving the optimum portion of the crop that meets market specification.
4. Keep planting depth consistent
A consistent planting depth that is appropriate for the variety is vital for rapid and even emergence. Planting depth will also influence the uniformity and sizing of the tubers. Standard practices have slowly been moving towards shallower planting depths (12.7-15cm) to increase speed of emergence, with no negative impact on quality and greening.
Having an even crop also makes it easier to irrigate and desiccate as the season goes on.
To find out more about how Crop4Sight can help with successful potato establishment, call 07590 428466 to request a demonstration.