Potatoes, the worlds 4th most popular food crop, after maize, wheat, and rice, is a widely consumed meal in every country.
This highly nutritional crop belongs to the kingdom Plantae, the genus Solanum and is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade Solanum Tuberosum.
The explosive demand for their supply is largely triggered not just by their tasty nature, but by the highly nutritious value they contain.
Depending on whether it is the sweet potato or the irish potato, a medium-sized potato gives an extremely low 110 calories, contains zero amounts of cholesterol, fat, sodium, and are rich in Vitamin C, Potassium, iron, Vitamin B6, and fibre.
What Is Potato Farming About?
Potato farming is the commercial cultivation of potato crops for food and several other purposes.
These crops are planted and then harvested between 13 to 20 weeks after planting
Setting Up Your Potato Farm
1). Choose An Appropriate Site:
Growing potatoes in an open area with full access to sunlight is the best way to go about the cultivation.
The site could slope slightly, be protected from the wind, and be facing southward.
A good source of water must also be located close to the farm to facilitate better irrigation whenever it is required.
The soil should be well drained, deep enough, and loose with a P.H of 5.5 to 6.5, for optimum results.
Although potatoes can grow on a wide variety of soil types, even though partially acidic soils are the best, it is always important that you carry out soil tests to determine the crops fertilizer and lime requirements.
Choosing a farmland where no crop has been grown on for a consecutive period of 2 years is important to reduce the risk of diseases.
The disease free state can also be maintained by ensuring constant crop rotation.
This prevents nematodes like the eelworm, which can live for up to 20 to 30 years, from infesting your farmland.
2). Acquire The Right Machinery:
For a successful yield, it is important to have: a tractor, irrigation equipment, fertilizer applicators, spraying equipment, cultivation equipment, tipping device, forklift, diggers/harvesters, graders, bag sewing machines, scales, and bins.
While these machineries may seem directed towards high-income farmers, small scale farmers can still use traditional methods to carry the potato cultivation process.
3). Prepare The Soil:
Before planting your potatoes, it is critical that you prepare the soil far ahead, so it would have settled properly before the planting season.
This preparation process could involve applying fertilizer and organic matter to the soil, and removing large stones and weed.
You should then prepare dry seed beds so as to prevent crop damage and compaction.
Not paying attention to this results in a very low crop yield.
4). Choose The Potato Variety To Plant:
This phase is highly important because, it is critical you grow potatoes that your market wants.
In making this decision, some factors to lookout for when selecting a potato variety to plant are:
5). Follow Up Some Important Factors:
Here, you have to properly manage your potato farm based on some critical checklists.
Some of them to watch include:
Timing: Potatoes should be planted in dry soil with a temperature of preferably 7°C.
Planting Depth: The depth should be between 12 to 15 cm below the surface, and between 4 to 5 cm above the furrow base in order to protect seeds against wet weather conditions.
The type of potato and its seed is also a major determinant to the depth of the soil.
Seeding Rate: The size of the potato tubers and the cost management is highly important for an optimal seed rate.
Drip Irrigation: This is one of the best irrigation methods in potato farming, because it manages the moisture content well, and so, can be used in applying nutrients in precise amounts.
6). Fertilizer Application:
Substantial quantities of Phosphates, Nitrogen, and Potassium, must be applied to improve the tuber size, crop yield, and quality.
7). Controlling Pests And Diseases:
Youd have to introduce strict practices that eliminate weed to improve the water level of your soil, eradicate pests like the eelworm, slugs, wireworms and aphids, and youd need to contain diseases like the blackleg and bacterial soft rot, potato blight, rhizoctonia, common and powdery scab, black scurf, and several others.
Controlling all these potato crop threats with strict practices is a very important step to follow.
8). Harvesting Your Potatoes:
The right time to harvest your potatoes is highly dependent on the weather conditions, the growth season, and the desired tuber size.
In the process of harvesting these potatoes, ensure there is minimal damage to the tubers before storage.
You will start off the harvest process by desiccation of the foliage. This is critical when the crop is going to be stored for a period of time.
If the crops will be sold immediately, desiccation (burning off) is not a compulsory step to take.
After applying a desiccant, youd need to wait for an average of 2 to 3 weeks before you can start or continue harvesting the potatoes.
During this wait-period, the skin of the tubers will mature, and so increases its chances of surviving rot, due to damage or diseases at harvest and storage.
The potatoes should be properly stored within the first 14 days of harvest to enable cuts on the potatoes to heal properly.
For large quantities of potatoes, they should be stored in plastic containers rather than wooden containers, since the plastic storage facilities are a lot easier to clean.
While there are several agribusinesses that have high potentials for great yield and profitability, potato farming is a great one to venture into, if executed at the right scale.