By Spy Uganda
Potato is a herbaceous starchy, tuberous crop and it’s locally known as the Irish potato cause of its originality and globally the Irish potatoes are the fourth largest food crop following rice, wheat and maize.
Available varieties in Uganda include; Victoria, Kisoro, Kabaale, Rutuku and NAKPoT (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Potatoes grow best in deep friable fertile soils that have good water retention capacity as compact soils reduce root and tuber development and may cause tuber deformation. Irish potatoes also require adequate soil moisture, though excess soil moisture results in poor growth and encourages diseases.
How To Plant Irish Potatoes
Potatoes should be planted early in the season at the onset of rains for farmers who follow rain cycles.
The crop may be planted on a flat field and afterwards earthen and transferred to ridge garden or may be planted on ridges directly, however, the best way of planting would be using 10cm deep furrow.
The furrows are then ridged up immediately after placement of seed tubers and one should ensure that the ridges are about 25cm high. The recommended spacing of the crop is (60×30) cm.
Fertilizer recommendation; the optimal fertilizer rates for potato production is 100kg/hectare of sodium, 50kg/ha of phosphorus and 50kg/ha potassium.
How To Weed Irish Potatoes
Irish potato plants should be weeded to reduce competition with weeds but also to get rid of weeds that act as alternate hosts of insect pests like aphids.
About two weedings’ are done, the first when the crop is about 10cm high and the second when the crop is about 20-25cm high.
How To Harvest & Store Irish Potatoes
In Uganda, potato is harvested using a hoe and should be harvested when it’s mature.
Two to three weeks before harvesting, the crop should be ‘dehaulmed’ (i.e. the stems of the crop removed). This allows the skin of the tubers to harden to minimize bruising during harvesting and subsequent handling. Bruised potato tubers are prone to rotting.
After harvesting, Irish potato tubers should be put in a cool place for at least a week to allow them to cure i.e. the skin to develop suberin or a hard layer that further protects them from physical damage and attack by insects and diseases.
Curing also heals wounds. To cure potato you should keep the harvested tubers in a well-aerated, high humidity and relatively warm temperature of about (50_60) °C.
Potatoes are stored in facilities carefully designed to keep the potatoes alive and slow the natural process of decomposition.
A suitable area should be dark and well aerated. Light in storage should be avoided because it induces greening which also indicates the accumulation of a sugar compound that is poisonous (glycoalkaloids). Storage facilities should be designed to keep the temperature low below 25°C.