It’s planting season here in Idaho. Every day it’s not raining, you see farmers out in the fields planting wheat, grain and of course, potatoes. I thought I would tell you a little about how potatoes are planted and how they are grown because before I began working in the potato business, I certainly didn’t think there was much too planting and growing potatoes, but I was wrong.
Planting starts with seed potatoes, these are potatoes that are specifically bred in areas that have little pollution.
Many seed potatoes are grown at the base of the Teton Mountains, an area that has strict restrictions regarding emissions from vehicles and spraying. The reason for this adherence to a clean environment is to produce high quality, disease-free seeds. Before planting, the seeds are tested to ensure they are clean. Having these clean seeds is imperative to producing potato plants with these important attributes; high yield per plant, potatoes with well-developed skins, high quality potatoes that taste great, are resistant to bruising and that will store well.
Another extremely important part of the planting process is the machinery used. The cutters and planters must be clean and disinfected before each use. After the potato seeds are are cut into chunks they are planted 12 inches apart anywhere between 4 to 8 inches deep. Within a month, the potato tubers will begin to take shape.
For potatoes to thrive, its best that the growing area is prone to hot days and cool nights. If too many of your days are hot without cooling off at night, the yield will be diminished.
Once the potatoes are planted, agronomists begin visiting the crops weekly. These visits are called scouting and the agronomists use it to check on how the potatoes are growing. Each field has protocols based on the soil content, the water needed, and type of weather being experienced. The plants grow and flower, the color of the flower correlates to the type of potato that it is producing. The flowers can be white to various hues of pink or purple.
Once the potatoes begin to flower, the agronomists will dig plants out of the field to look at the way the skins are setting and check the plant yield. The agronomists are looking for any signs of problems with the potatoes as they grow. Problems can indicate that the potatoes aren’t getting enough water in their area of the field or they can indicate that the agronomists need to make adjustments to their growing protocols. Then they will rebury the potatoes. These potatoes will continue to grow until the plants are harvested.
Stay tuned for more potato information!
Written by Barbara Keckler, Marketing Manager at Potandon Produce L.L.C.