Potato tuber size and uniformity are critical for every market. During harvesting, yield could imply two things: the number of potato tubers per unit area and the size and weight of an individual tuber. High potato yield is achieved when you have many tubers that are large enough, in volume and weight. Some times, farmers fail to achieve one or all of these requirements. There are several reasons for having small potatoes or low production per unit area.
- Nutrient Deficiency
Nutrients that prolong a healthy leaf canopy will increase the average tuber size. A correct mix of nutrition is important for increasing potato tuber size. Nutrients like nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, calcium, magnesium and manganese affect potato tuber size. Potatoes are a demanding and lethargic crop. Their Phosphorus requirements during the tuber initiation phase are high. To achieve an optimal yield, 50 per cent of the phosphorus requirement must be absorbed between 15 and 45 days after emergence. Potatoes are also a crop with a shallow root system. Therefore, phosphorus needs to be close to the roots, and also the soil phosphorus content needs to be high enough.
Once the number of tubers is established, the quality of the filling will impact the yield. Nitrogen and potassium are crucial during vegetative growth, tuber formation, and bulking and the plant needs them in huge amounts. Potatoes also need trace elements like boron, copper, manganese and zinc for growth and tuber formation. Farmers are advised to select a fertiliser that constitutes the required quantities of these nutrients. You can add compost to improve soil fertility.
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- Soil pH
Low soil pH reduces nutrient uptake efficiency. So more fertiliser needs to be added for the same result. And this perpetuates the downward spiral of low pH. A low fertiliser efficiency can mean the farmer uses the same amount of fertiliser but gets a lower yield, or the farmer adds more fertiliser to maintain the same yield. The result is the same for the farmer regarding income reduction due to either increased input costs or reduced production. For optimum yields, ensure soil pH is around 6.0 to 6.5 for proper nutrient uptake by potatoes.
- Too Little Sunlight
Potatoes grow best in open sunlight. Ensure that your potato plants get at least six to eight hours of daily sunlight. This sunlight is critical for producing tubers underneath the ground. So if your plant doesn’t get enough sunlight, this will result in small tubers or no tubers at all in extreme cases. Although the plants might look healthy from the outside, the production of tubers suffers a lot if it doesn’t get the required sunlight. Always plant your potatoes in an area where they get enough sunlight, and also make sure no taller plants are nearby to block that sunlight from reaching the potato plants.
Water is crucial for your potato plants. They need a lot of water, especially during tuber formation. If the plants do not get this at the tuber formation, the yields will be low. Add a layer of mulch on top of the soil. This will conserve water and also stop weeds from growing. Add plenty of organic material like compost, manure to the soil before planting potatoes. Organic matters increase the fertility of the soil and hold water for longer.
- High Temperatures
One of the other most common but often neglected reasons that cause low potato yields is high temperatures. It can cause a fewer number of tubers as well as small-sized ones. The ideal temperature for growing potatoes is between 15 degrees and 20 degrees centigrade and once the temperature reaches above 25 degrees centigrade, the tuber production starts to fall. A solution to this problem is using shade clothes to cover your potato plants during the hottest part of the day. Using a thick layer of mulch can also cool down the soil.
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