Potato cultivation

Potato cultivation

Suitable climate

The potato is a vegetable that is well suited to different climatic types, thanks also to the possibility of moving and deferring their crop cycle. You can therefore grow this vegetable profitably whether you live in the countryside or live in the mountains. Indeed, to be honest, the best climatic conditions are precisely those that can be seen in the mountains, in the Alpine, Pre-Alpine and, obviously, Apennine areas. Because? Because potatoes need an abundant amount of water, an element that tends to be scarce in the southern areas of our country, or in the open countryside, during the torrid and dry summer period. Not for nothing, this delicious vegetable requires about five hundred liters of water for every kilo of dry matter produced! In any case, the right temperature for the profitable and satisfactory cultivation of the potato is from eighteen to twenty degrees centigrade.


Ideal terrain

The potato is demanding in terms of growing medium. In fact, it needs a soil rich in old strength, therefore humus, and that is sufficiently close to the type of medium mixture or even, in some cases, loose. Yes, because the loose soil, therefore slightly sandy, favors the growth of the tuber without hindering its formation.

A type of soil suitable for potato cultivation it is also alkaline (basic), or calcareous, which however we do not recommend here due to the ease with which potatoes can contract diseases such as scabies in this soil.

POTATOES IN BRIEF
Family, genus, speciesSolanaceae, Solanum tuberosum
Type of plantHerbaceous annual, tuberous
Cultivationsimple
Water needaverage
RusticityLow
Ideal growth temperature18 ° / 20 ° C
ExposureSun-half shade
SoilLoose, processed, rich in decomposed organic substance
Parasites and diseasesColorado beetle, moth, grillotalpa, alternariosis, downy mildew


Fertilization and care

A good amount of organic matter will be good for your potatoes. Mix it with the soil in the autumn or better still in winter. Depending on the place where you prefer to practice this type of cultivation, you can also defer the periods of over or under fertilization. A good fertilization in the ideal period will avoid an excessively late mineralization, which would increase the sensitivity of the plant to downy mildew. This would damage the good property of the tubers to preserve themselves correctly, favoring the growth of the leaves rather than that of the potato itself. And the potato leaves, you know, are not as good as the tuber!

Also avoid exceeding with a fertilizer rich in nitrogen, because you could decrease the starch content while increasing that of glucose and fructose. Instead, we recommend, of course, the use of good composted manure, because it speeds up the growth process and nourishes your precious tubers faster.

Among the most prominent crop treatments, we find weeding and scraping. Weeding should be applied until the shoots appear on the furrows. After that it can be hedged: in this way we will protect the potato from greening and will instead favor tuberization.

Another very important factor that should not be underestimated is that even a short period of water shortage can cause a stop in the growth of the potato, with irreversible consequences in terms of harvested quantity and quality.

In northern Italy, particular attention should be paid to water shortages in the periods of late April and May. However, the period of maximum alert in this sense is between the months of June, July and August. In fact, in these months it will be necessary to intervene with irrigated water at least every 5-8-10-15 days.

Dispense the water gently to prevent the tubers from uncovering and damaging them. In fact, a correct supply of water will make the photosynthesis process easier with a consequent increase in the production of your delicious tubers. Provoking stress in this sense can lead to the so-called secondary growths, problems in the pasta of the tuber and chemical imbalances, irreparably and substantially damaging the quality of the tuber itself.


Sowing

Potato sowing is usually practiced, under normal conditions, during the spring season. If the pre-sprouting is not carried out, then the potato can be buried in its entirety or cut a few days before. It is good to bury it entirely if the potato is small, while if it is more voluminous, it should be cut, verifying in advance, however, that it has at least three or four sufficiently fertile buds.

The advantage of cutting lies in saving the purchase of seeds, however the disadvantage lies in the fact that this practice could lead to fatal rotting of the potato during the burying phase.

It will therefore be good, in case of cutting, to provide a dense sowing, dusting the tuber with algae meal or a substance called "lithotamnio": this will facilitate the healing of the tuber.

Sow your potatoes at a distance of thirty centimeters from each other on the row. Space the rows between them by at least sixty centimeters.

Plant the tubers close to ten to fifteen centimeters deep.

Depending on the state of conservation of the seed tuber and its size, the amount useful for sowing will vary from time to time.

A fundamental advice?

Sow your potatoes when the garden will have dry soil; raise your eyes to the sky and make sure it doesn't rain at any moment; look at your hands: if they are cold and purple, don't plant the tuber yet! Frosts could come, absolute enemies of your potatoes!


Diseases of potatoes

Potatoes are a vegetable grown all over Italy but being a tuber that lives underground there can frequently be problems related to fungi and bacteria that can attack and compromise the quality of the crop. Not only that, often the leaves of this plant can also be subject to attacks of annoying parasites that are able to undermine the health of the plant, even seriously compromising it.

Downy mildew is a fungus that affects potatoes quite frequently and is the most harmful fungal disease for this vegetable. In the past centuries, when the potato was one of the most cultivated vegetables by the people, the epidemics of this fungus have done incredible damage in Europe. In fact, downy mildew attacks the tuber and causes it to rot and in periods when people lived off the potato crop, such as in the nineteenth century, the failure to harvest this vegetable caused many deaths.

Rizzotoniosis is another disease that affects the root part of the potato, producing showy brownish-red spots on the roots which, as they grow larger, destroy the root and compromise the tubers, causing black spots that cannot be removed from the peel except by removal. .


Consociation and turnover

According to an ancient tradition very widespread in mountain areas, the cultivation of potatoes must be combined with that of beans. It seems that the proximity between the two plants is useful for the prevention of Colorado beetle. Generally, the tubers and legumes are arranged in alternate rows with various other crops (broad beans, peas, cabbage, sunflower, corn).

Potatoes can be successfully inserted into a plot after cereals (especially rye) or alfalfa. Later, however, wheat, beetroot and corn can be planted.

Cultivation for several years in the same area is not recommended, to avoid the onset of specific diseases. We always wait at least 5 years before repeating the cycle.


Variety

Potatoes can be classified according to their intended use or from the color of the skin (yellow or red-violet) and of the flesh (white or yellow).

White-fleshed potatoes are generally richer in starch and are therefore ideal for the preparation of gnocchi, timbales, soups or purées. Those with yellow flesh, on the other hand, have a more compact consistency and tend less to flake even after a long cooking. They are therefore ideal fried or baked, making them more crunchy.

When we plant them, however, we must also know that there are early, medium-early), medium-late and late ones (they are harvested in autumn.

• The precocious have a short cycle, which ends 70 to 80 days after planting. They are usually consumed with their peel, since it will be very fine and it will only be necessary to clean it well by rubbing it with a damp cloth. They have a very limited shelf life and should be consumed within a maximum of 45 days.

• Semi-early crops are harvested 90 to 110 days after sowing.

• The semi-late and late ones are harvested from 110 to 130 days after implantation. To extract them you have to wait until the leaves are completely wilted. They have a rather long shelf life, in the right conditions.

Here are some well known cultivars


Early varieties

• Agate: very productive, yellow skin and pulp, which is very compact. Overall oval shape. It has a limited shelf life. It is used as a novella, often baked in the oven.

• Very productive Amandine, elongated shape, yellow skin and paste. Very compact, ideal for baking or steaming.

• Belle de Fontenay yellow externally and internally, very compact and exceptionally tasty. Low yield

• Manon: floury, yellow skin and paste. Suitable for all kitchen uses; resistant to powdery mildew.


Semi-early varieties

• Charlotte: medium compact, light yellow flesh and skin, good yield. Suitable for steam cooking or for cold salads.

• Bleue d'Artois purple pulp and skin. Rather compact, ideal for puree and gnocchi. Good performance

• Monalisa soft light yellow pulp, like the skin. For all cooking uses.

• Amber yellow flesh and thin skin, very resistant to diseases and can be stored


Semi-late and late

• Vitelotte: very intense flavor, purple pulp and skin. Elongated shape, low yield. Mealy, excellent for puree and fried

• Kennebec among the most widespread in cultivation; light skin and yellow pulp, floury but tasty. For dumplings, purées and soups.

• Ratte, butter potato: firm and yellow flesh, light skin. Small, elongated in shape. Ideal cooked in the oven, steamed, in salads. Low yield.

• Majestic white pasta, traditional Italian. Suitable for any use.


Collection

Harvesting can be done manually, in small plots, or with the help of mechanical means. It is essential to avoid damaging the individual tubers, as this could lead to premature rot.

First of all we wait for the weather to be dry and the soil to be completely dry; this helps processing and promotes excellent shelf life. In the case of late potatoes, it is important to wait until the aerial part is totally dry before starting the digging.

If we want to test the degree of ripeness of the tubers we will have to do a little test: we take out some and try to rub the peel. If this remains compact, we can proceed with the collection of the whole plot.

Before storage, we carefully sort the potatoes, eliminating the spoiled ones. The damaged ones can be put aside and used, cut and cleaned, for possible future sowing.

THE POTATO CALENDAR
SowingApril May
CollectionJune-September depending on the variety
Fertilizationautumn winter


Potato cultivation: Conservation

Potatoes are stored in a dry, cool and dark room with a temperature of about 4 ° C.

We intervene several times during the winter to eliminate the shoots and tubers that are damaged.

We avoid keeping them in the refrigerator, as too low temperatures can cause the production of acrylamide, a potentially harmful substance. We also avoid consuming potatoes with green shades.


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