|By goGreen | July 28, 2012|
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The common potato (Solanum tuberosum, Solanaceae) is a member of another large and important plant family, Solanaceae, which includes, among many others, eggplant and tomato. Th
e genus Solanum includes more than 2,000 species.
The potato was first seen by Europeans in 1537 when the Spanish landed in what is now called Colombia, and was brought back to Europe by 1570. It was cultivated throughout the continent before 1600, and in Ireland by 1663. The cultivated potato is said to have been first introduced into North America in 1621.
Potatoes are the leading starchy root crop of the subtropical countries, and one of the eight leading staple food crops of the world. Annual production of potatoes is approximately twice that of all other edible root crops combined. However, because of its limited climatic adaptability, less than 10 percent of production occurs in developing countries. The International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru is developing new varieties of this nutritious root crop, which perform well under a variety of soil and climatic conditions.
Among the root crops, the potato is known for its high protein content. It is almost equal to rice on a dry weight basis, and with a protein quality approaching that of beef. With its high yields and short maturation periods, the potato outranks all major world food crops in protein production per unit of time. The food value of the potato varies depending on the variety, growth, environmental conditions, storage, and handling. Its composition consists of 70 to 80 percent water, 8 to 28 percent starch, and 1 to 4 percent protein. It also contains vitamins such as riboflavin, ascorbic acid, and trace elements. It is an important source of high-quality nutrients for people in the tropical highlands. The potato has been a continuous object of research and investigation all over the world, with special focus of interest in the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru. The Center is attempting to increase the tolerance of the crop to high temperatures, and once it is accomplished, then it is likely that larger areas of West Africa will be open to cultivation.
Potatoes are grown as a single crop or in combination with sorghum, millet, maize, cowpeas, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. Propagation is done by tuber, either whole or cut. Whole tubers are less liable to rot in the soil. Planting material should be free from diseases, pests, and damage. Certified potato “seeds,” free from virus, should be used when possible. Potatoes may be planted by hand or mechanically, and the crop is usually planted on ridges at a depth of 5 to 15 centimeters.
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Most potato varieties have very specific temperature requirements, thereby limiting the adaptability of this crop in tropical regions. Tuber formation is retarded when the soil temperature rises above 20 [degrees] C; above 29 [degrees] C, little if any, tuberization takes place. Although young potato plants are very susceptible to hard frosts, most varieties will tolerate light frosts.
Potatoes require a continuous supply of moisture. Evenly distributed rainfall is considered essential, and drought, even for short periods, can have serious effects on yields and quality of the crops. Well-drained peat soils are particularly suited; however, potatoes could grow on most soils if drainage is adequate. A deep, well-drained loam, or sandy loam, with a pH of 5 to 5.6 is considered to be the best. Potatoes respond well to manures and chemical fertilizers, and good yields can be obtained only with adequate fertility. Fertilizer requirements vary greatly depending on the variety and growing conditions.
Potatoes do not compete well with weeds, and timely, efficient weeding, by pulling or tillage, is essential. In temperate zones, the crop is often repeatedly hoed, up to five times during the growing season. Normally, the crop is ready for harvest in three to four months. Harvesting should be done on a dry day, when the tubers are mature. The crop can be harvested by hand or mechanically. If it is harvested mechanically, a wide range of equipment can be used, including diggers, spinners, and ploughs. Harvested tubers should be stored temporarily in a shaded, dry, and well-ventilated place for 7 to 10 days to allow the skins to harden before the potatoes are prepared for market or storage. Potato yields vary with variety, length of growing season, climate, and the type of soil. With efficient farming methods in temperate climates, yields well in excess of 25 metric tons per hectare are quite common. Yields are lower in the tropics, averaging about 14 to 15 metric tons per hectare.
<p style=”text-align: left;”><img class=”size-full wp-image-9710 aligncenter” src=”http://www.agripinoy.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/PreparedPotatoes.jpg” alt=”" width=”170″ height=”257″ />Potatoes can be eaten boiled, roasted, baked, fried, or mashed. They can be made into fried chips or crisps, dehydrated and flaked, or made into flour. Potatoes can be pulped and fermented to produce alcohol. Potato tubers make an excellent livestock feed and can be fed fresh or dried and used in the form of a meal.</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”><strong> Diseases and Pests</strong></p>
Potato crops are subject to a number of diseases, some of which are of great economic importance in both developed and developing countries. Brown rot, or bacterial wilt, is the most serious potato disease in West Africa. The disease is carried by seed tubers. Other bacterial diseases include soft rot, ring rot, and late blight. Several other diseases are also of considerable importance. Among these are virus diseases that can cause crop losses. Virus-free planting stock is essential since there are no effective treatments for these diseases. Finally, a number of pests, particulary aphids and nematodes, have been found to cause economic losses. These pests not only harm the crop, but also spread virus diseases such as leaf roll and mosaic.
Source: Understanding the Production of the Major Tropical/ Sub-Tropical Root Crops
By Dr. Nail H. Ozerol