Do you want to start potato farming? Here in this article, we provide you an in-depth manual of cultivation of potatoes with process, benefits, harvesting, and much more.
Potato is an important food crop globally. Potato cultivation is profitable with the use of hybrid seeds. Furthermore, maintaining proper cultivation practice is important to get a higher yield. Potato is one of the most lucrative cash crops among farmers.
In addition, it is the third most important food crop in the world after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. And it is a fundamental element in the food security for millions of people across South America, Africa, and Asia, including Central Asia. However, proper post-harvest management is also essential to save the fruit from deterioration.
Major potato growing countries are India, China, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the United States of America, and Germany. In addition, major potato-producing states are West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, and Punjab in India. here in this article, we intend to explore how to start a potato cultivation business including planting, growing, and harvesting.
The scientific name of potato is Solanum tuberosum. In addition, potato belongs to the family Solanaceae. Potato is an important staple food crop. Furthermore, it is rich in starch and contains protein, minerals, & a fair amount of vitamins, particularly Vitamin – C.
Economic Importance of Potato Cultivation
It is without saying, potato plays an important role in the agrarian economy. Due to its dominance in the agricultural consumption of the households, there is a demand for potatoes throughout the year. In addition, it is a major raw material for potato processing industries. India in particular and Asia, in general, are showing a rapid growth in potato production.
Potatoes are essential items for several industrial purposes such as for the production of starch and alcohol. In addition, laundries and textile mills use potato starch (farina) for sizing yarn. Potatoes are also useful items for the production of dextrin and glucose. As a food product itself, potatoes are also popular as dried products such as ‘potato chips’, ‘sliced’ or ‘shredded potatoes’.
Potato is a highly remunerative crop of the country even for the small and marginal farmers. Growing potato is essentially a profitable economic activity. However, you must have formal marketing facilities and post-harvest management of the potatoes.
Health Benefits of Potatoes
- First of all, potatoes are rich in potassium. The concentration is highest in the skin and just beneath it. So, eating the potato with its skin is always beneficial.
- Potatoes also contain calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
- In addition, potato contains a large amount of Vitamin C.
- Potatoes contain about 17% starch and it is one of the best natural sources of starch.
- Since potatoes predominantly contain carbohydrates, they are easy to digest and facilitate digestion.
Things To Consider in Potato Farming
- Firstly, the initial input cost is comparatively high in potatoes. So you must arrange the finance for the same.
- Temperature is the main limiting factor in production. So you must maintain the right time for potato planting.
- Pests and diseases are the major concern of production loss. Therefore, avoid growing potatoes on the same land from year to year.
- Finally, proper irrigation, high-quality seed, and improved cultivars are the major factors to get optimum yields.
Best Varieties of Potato
There are more than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes. They come in many sizes and shapes. Kufri Jyoti, Kufri Muthu, Kufri Swarna, Kufri Thangam, Kufri Malar, Kufri Soga, Kufri Giriraj are the popular varieties in India. Some of the early season varieties are Irish Cobbler and Yukon Gold.
Whereas, some of the mid-season varieties are Catalina, Chieftain, French Fingerling, Gold Rush, Ida Rose, Kerrs Pink, Kennebec, Purple Viking, Red Pontiac, etc. To obtain maximum yields, you must use healthy, disease-free tubers, free from the mixture of other varieties. Seed rate depends on tuber size. However,
To obtain maximum yields, you must use healthy, disease-free tubers, free from the mixture of other varieties. Seed rate depends on tuber size. However, the general recommendation is 800-1000 kg/ha.
Ideal Agro Climatic Condition For Potato Farming
The potato has a wide range of seasonal adaptability. It is a cool-season crop and is moderately frost-tolerant. However, during the growing season temperature is one of the most important factors influencing yield. Young plants grow best at a temperature of 24° C. However later growth favorable temperature is 18° C.
Tuber production reaches a maximum at 20° C, decreases with the rise of temperature. And at about 30° C tuber production stops entirely. Short days are beneficial for tuber production.
Suitable Soil For Potato Farming
The potato grows best on deep, fertile, sandy clay loams with good water retention capacity. Because the potato has a relatively weak, shallow root system. In addition, they have impermeable layers in the soil that limit rooting depth.
It restricts water availability to the plant in dry periods. Thus soil compaction can greatly reduce potato yields. Aeration of the soil has a great effect on the set and development of tubers. Potatoes prefer light soils. Because they tend to promote more uniform soil temperatures and make harvesting of the crop easier.
Alkaline or saline soils are not suitable for potato cultivation. They are well suited to acidic soils (pH 5.0 to 6.5) as acidic conditions tend to limit scab disease.
Potato Farming Basic Steps
Growing potatoes involve extensive ground preparation. You must harrow the soil until completely free of weed roots. In most cases, it needs, three ploughings, along with frequent harrowing and rolling, before the soil reaches a suitable condition. However, you must ensure a soft, well-drained, and well-aerated field.
Use disease-free, well-sprouted tubers weighing 40 – 50 grams for planting. The planting density of a row of potatoes depends on the size of the tubers chosen. For rainfed production in dry areas, planting on flat soil gives higher yields.
First of all, you must maintain a relatively high-level soil moisture. For best yields, a 120 to 150 days crop requires from 500 to 700 mm (20 to 27.5 inches) of water. In general, water deficits in the middle to late part of the growing period tend to reduce yield more than those in the early part.
The use of chemical fertilizer depends on the level of available soil nutrients. However, a potato has a high nutrient requirement. In light soils and places where organic manures are not easily available, green manuring is beneficial. However, you must estimate the right fertilizer requirements according to the expected yield and potential of the variety.
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 the 45th day without disturbing stolons. Second hoeing and earthing can be taken up on the 60th day.
Plant Protection System In Potato Cultivation
Insect pests can wreak havoc in a potato patch. However, you must adopt a proper pest control system for your potato farm. Recommended control measures include regular monitoring and steps to protect the pests’ natural enemies.
Potato crop suffers from different pathological maladies resulting in the considerable loss in yield. However, crop rotation, using tolerant varieties and healthy, certified seed tubers – can help avoid great losses. Late blight, Brown rot, and Early light are some of the potential diseases of potatoes.
Related: Crop Rotation Guide For Beginners
Harvesting & Yield in Potato Farming
Yellowing of the potato plant’s leaves and easy separation of the tubers from their stolons indicate that the crop has reached maturity. However, if you want to store them, leave them in the soil to allow their skins to thicken. Because thick skins prevent storage diseases and shrinkage due to water loss. The average yield of potatoes is 30-35 tons/ha. However, it depends on the variety, cultural practices, and location.
Since the newly harvested tubers are living tissues, proper storage is essential. It is important both prevent post-harvest losses of potatoes destined for fresh consumption or processing. Also, it guarantees an adequate supply of seed tubers for the next season of potato cultivation.
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