Submitted to: American Journal of Potato Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 20, 2003
Publication Date: January 20, 2004
Citation: Essah, S., Honeycutt, C.W. 2004. Tillage and seed-sprouting strategies to improve potato yield and quality in short growing seasons. American Journal of Potato Research. 81: 177-186 Interpretive Summary: Short growing seasons can limit crop production. The largest agricultural county east of the Mississippi River is in northern Maine, where potato is the primary crop. Research was conducted to evaluate management practices to effectively lengthen this short growing season in northern Maine. Raised beds and ridges were formed in the fall to promote earlier soil drying and warming in the spring. Potatoes were sprouted before planting in an attempt to quicken their emergence and growth. By 18 days after planting in 2000, over 90% of plants from sprouted seed but only 30% of plants from non-sprouted seed had emerged. Similar results were found in 2001. Highest yield was found using sprouted seed planted in raised beds. The raised beds maintained more water for plant growth during drought. The technique of producing potatoes from sprouted seed in raised beds appears promising for enhancing tuber yield and quality in regions with short growing seasons.
Technical Abstract: Management practices that accelerate crop development and allow earlier harvest would be beneficial in short-season potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) production areas. Yield and quality of the potato cultivar 'Russet Burbank' were evaluated in a 2-yr study in northern Maine to determine the effects of tillage and seed-sprouting treatments designed to drain the soil early in the spring and promote early plant emergence. The tillage treatments, consisting of fall raised bed (RB), fall ridge till (RT), and spring chisel plow (CH), were tested in combination with green-sprouted and non-sprouted seed on a Caribou gravelly loam (coarse-loamy, mixed, frigid, Typic Haplorthod). Plants from green-sprouted seed emerged earlier than from non-sprouted seed [87-96% vs. 21-37%, respectively, at 18 days after planting (DAP) in 2000; and 73-88% vs.18-23%, respectively, at 20 DAP in 2001]. Across all tillage and seed-sprouting combinations, total yield was greatest with green-sprouted seed planted in RB. Green-sprouted seed in RB yielded 4.6 to 5.9 T ha-1 higher than non-sprouted seed in RB. However, non-sprouted seed yielded higher than green-sprouted seed in RT by 2.9 to 4.2 T ha-1 and in CH by 1.1 to 4.1 T ha-1. Similarly, green-sprouted seed in RB and non-sprouted seed in RT and CH produced higher marketable yield, greater tuber length, and greater tuber diameter than the corresponding seed-sprouting treatment. In the comparatively wetter year (2000), green-sprouted seed in RB significantly increased total and marketable yields, and produced longer and larger tubers than all other treatments; but in the relatively dry year (2001), yield and quality of green-sprouted seed in RB did not differ from non-sprouted seed in RT and CH. Green-sprouted seed in RB produced less sunburn and rotten tubers, but more misshaped tubers than non-sprouted seed. The better performance of green-sprouted seed in RB was apparently associated with higher soil water content compared to RT and CH. The technique of producing Russet Burbank potatoes with green-sprouted seed in raised beds appears promising for enhancing tuber yield and quality in regions with short growing seasons.