Research Promotes Sustainable Potato Production

July 14, 2009

1 Min Read
Research Promotes Sustainable Potato Production

BELTSVILLE, Md.—Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) New England Plant, Soil and Water Laboratory in Orono, Maine, have conducted long-term research with canola and other Brassica crops, which have natural pest suppression properties, in rotation with potatoes since 1997 to make potato production sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Research reveals using the right crop rotation, potato farmers can naturally suppress diseases, enhance soil nutrient content, boost crop productivity, and lower the use of fertilizers, all of which lower the risks of economic losses. Using rotation crops has reduced some soil-borne diseases from 20 percent to 50 percent. Canola crops are particularly promising because they produce potent sulfur compounds that can knock down powdery scab and Rhizoctonia fungus.

Additionally, scientists at the ARS Vegetable and Forage Crops Production Research Unit in Prosser, Wash., have found that one to two tons of crushed mustard seed meal applied per acre without herbicides significantly reduced early weeds in potato fields. Mustard seed meal is left over after vegetable oil has been extracted.

Potato producers in the Pacific Northwest already use white and brown mustards as cover crops in rotation with potatoes to reduce wind erosion and help control plant pathogens. The researchers also determined that mustard cover crops can contribute more than 30 pounds of nitrogen to each acre of crop soil, which could save farmers $14 to $30 per acre, depending on the cost of nitrogen fertilizers.

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