AMES, Iowa –Potatoes have become an extremely important commercial crop in the United States, with over 1 million acres planted and an approximate value of $3.9 billion. Iowa itself has over 400 farms growing potatoes on more than 1,000 acres.
All potato production aspects, including post-harvest management, are discussed in the ‘Commercial Potato Production Guide’ (HORT 3044), a new Iowa State University Extension and Outreach publication that can be found on the ISU Extension and Outreach Store.
The publication is authored by Ajay Nair, assistant professor of horticulture and extension vegetable production specialist; Vince Lawson, superintendent, Muscatine Island Research and Demonstration Farm; Donald Lewis, professor and extension entomologist; Laura Jesse, director and extension plant pathologist, Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic; and Lina Rodriguez-Salamanca, plant pathology diagnostician, PIDC, and microbiology specialist, ISU Extension and Outreach.
“Local foods are gaining ground in Iowa and the potato is a great addition to the list of locally grown vegetable crops, as it is well adapted to our climate and can be stored over winter for extended marketing,” said Nair.
The publication discusses all aspects of potato production, beginning with choosing the correct type of potato to grow, size of seed potatoes, spacing, fertility, and pest management.
Protecting growing plants from both insect pests and disease are crucial to developing large yields. The publication includes in-depth coverage of common pests that damage potato crops - Colorado potato beetle, flea beetle, potato leafhopper and aphids - and what can be done to prevent those pests from impacting the crop. Ways of combating common diseases like blight, scab, bacteria soft rot and blackleg are also discussed at length.
A strict three-to-four year crop rotation cycle is critical to help limit both damage from pests and disease. Rotating the crop to a different field each year makes it harder for pests who winter next to the fields to have an impact on the potato the next growing season.
Appropriate harvesting time and method, along with small and large-scale harvesting equipment, are covered topics in the publication.
PHOTO: by Christopher Gannon