If you want to know how to grow potatoes, you have come to the right place. Potatoes are grown widely in many African countries. Potatoes are an ideal crop because they mature within a short period of time.
- Prepare the Land
Crop production always begins with land preparation. Plough the land at least two weeks before planting. Some farmers opt to plow twice instead of just once. Plowing aerates the soil. It also helps to destroy weeds and makes soil easy to work in. Before planting the potatoes, make furrows in straight lines. Each furrow should be 8-10 centimeters deep.
- Use Clean Planting Material
Clean planting material is absolutely essential for growing potatoes. Buy certified seeds to avoid infections that can destroy the potato crop. In some African countries there is a shortage of certified seeds. This means that some farmers may have to learn how to produce clean – or disease free seed tubers on farm. Potato seed tubers should be the size of an egg and having at least 4-5 sprouts. If you cannot access certified seeds tubers, select tubers from a healthy plant on your farm and set them aside for use in the next season. Do not wait until after harvesting to select seed tubers because then it is easier for disease or pest infestation to go unnoticed.
Seed varieties are chosen for their varying maturation period, resistance to disease and suitability for different uses. Potatoes hare mostly used for stewing, mashing and production of chips/French fries. The maturation period varies from two months to four and a half months.
- Use Correct Spacing
When planting your seed tubers, ensure that the furrows are 75cm apart that seeds are planted 3cm apart. Always remember to plant the tubers with their sprouts facing up.
- Use proper Weeding and Ridging
Potatoes must be weeded at least twice. Wait for the crop to emerge and then count two weeks before weeding. The second weeding is done two to three weeks after the first weeding. Every time you weed, you must earth up to create a ridge. The ridge should finally grow to 25cm high.
- Control Pests and Diseases
Pests and diseases are controlled in different ways. Farmers can rely on use of tolerant potato varieties, use of clean planting material, and use of fungicides (some of which can be sprayed on the plants and some on the soil). In case of infection with bacterial wilt the only remedy is to uproot the infected plants and tubers along with the surrounding soil and to burn them in order to avoid spread of the disease to other plants. Insecticides are also important for controlling aphids and other insect pests. Insecticides should also be used in storage. Always rotate at least three seasons. This helps to control the buildup of pests and diseases in the soil.
- Harvest using blunt objects
Potatoes should be left in the ground until they are mature enough. 10-14 days before harvesting, you ought to cut the stems and leaves so that tuber growth is maximized. During the harvesting itself, use blunt objects to avoid damaging tubers. Sharp tools can cut into the tubers.
- Grade and store the harvest well
Don’t pack the potatoes into storage before grading them. The first step is to remove all potatoes that are misshapen, infected with disease and pests, greened or in some way damaged. Potatoes are graded according to size. They are graded into baby potatoes, medium potatoes and large potatoes. Remove all stones, dirt, weeds, grass, foreign objects and rotten potatoes.
Take care to store the potatoes in a dark room that is well ventilated. The room should be dark because exposure to sunlight leads to greening.
- Use Fertilizer and Manure
Use fertilizers and manure when growing potatoes to improve productivity and to maintain soil fertility.