Growing Potato
Crop Nutrition Advice

Everything you need to know about fertilizing potatoes, best practice, suitable products, field trials and more.

Crop Description

Potato originates in the Andes from the tropical areas of high altitude and grow from sea level up to 4,700 meters above sea level, from southern Chile to Greenland. It requires a well-drained, well-aerated, porous soil with pH ranges from 5 to 7.5. The crop is moderately sensitive to soil salinity.

The potato crop plays a critical role in global food security. It is a nutrient-rich staple for millions of people worldwide. The crop provides essential nutrients, including carbohydrates, vitamins (such as vitamin C), and minerals (like potassium). It also has a high caloric yield per unit of land and is grown in various climates and terrains, making them accessible to diverse populations.

Potatoes are resilient crops and can withstand adverse conditions like drought, poor soil, and extreme temperatures. This resilience contributes to food security during challenging times.
In terms of affordability, the crop is affordable and accessible to people across income levels. They provide sustenance without straining household budgets.

A reliable potato crop ensures a stable food supply. When other crops fail due to weather or pests, potatoes remain a dependable source of nutrition and thus contribute to food security.
In summary, potato is more than just a side dish—it’s a lifeline for many, supporting global food security.

Global production

Currently (FAOSTAT, 2022), potato crop is farmed on 20 million hectares to produce 365 million mt. While between 2000 and 2022, the cultivated area for potato decreased by 11%, production has increased by 16%, reflecting an overall increase in average yield per hectare of 25%, from 16 to 21 mt/ha.

Potato usage and quality preferences

Potatoes serve various purposes, and their utilization can be categorized as follows:
1. Fresh Consumption: Approximately two-thirds of the potato harvest is destined for fresh consumption. When it comes to eating potatoes directly, factors like taste and skin appearance take center stage. Consumers seek flavourful, visually appealing spuds for their meals.
2. Seeds: About 10% of the potato yield is reserved for seed production. These seeds are used for planting new crops in subsequent seasons.
3. Processing Industry: The remaining 25% of potatoes find their way into the processing industry. Here, they are transformed into products such as French fries, potato chips (crisps), and starch. When it comes to making French fries and crisps, quality considerations shift. The critical factors become starch content (which is closely correlated with specific gravity) and fry color. Potatoes with the right starch levels yield crispy, golden fries and chips that consumers appreciate.

In summary, the diverse uses of potatoes drive the selection of specific potato varieties based on the desired quality traits for each purpose.

Nutrients role

Nutrients play a key role in potato crop yield and quality, both fresh consumption and processing and starch production. Optimal nutrient supply plays an important role in potato crop storage and susceptibility to various diseases. The relatively limited root zone along with high production rates per area unit, highlights the need for optimal fertilization program.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen plays a crucial role in potato production, impacting both yield and quality. Proper application of nitrogen fertilizer can significantly increase potato yield, however, the optimal response to N fertilizer varies by cultivar (potato variety) and soil type. Excessive nitrogen during later growth stages can lead to excessive vine growth, on account of tuber development, and can prevent the crop from reaching maturity. Excess nitrogen may reduce starch content and increase acrylamide levels, affecting the quality of processing potatoes. In summary, proper nitrogen management is essential for high tuber yield, good quality, and sustainable potato production.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is crucial for early root and shoot development. During tuber initiation, an adequate supply of phosphorus ensures the formation of optimum numbers of tubers. Phosphorus is essential for the development of healthy and productive potato plants. High phosphorus levels are necessary due to the potato plant’s shallow roots, low root density, minimal root hairs, and high P demand in the shoots. However, excessive phosphorus can lead to imbalances and affect overall crop health.

Potassium

Potassium plays a crucial role in potato production, impacting yield, quality, and resistance to biotic and abiotic stress. Potassium plays a key role in nutrient and carbohydrate transport and movement in the plant. It facilitates the movement of carbohydrates from leaves to tubers, ensuring energy supply for growth and development. Adequate potassium contributes to a robust root system, and it enhances the plant’s ability to resist diseases, insect attacks, and environmental stresses. Adequate potassium and nitrogen fertilization will increase yields and limit the accumulation of acrylamide in the tubers.

Magnesium

Magnesium has an essential function in potato plant reactions, including chlorophyll formation, photosynthesis, protein synthesis, and enzyme reactions. Its adequate supply increases yield and starch content and helps to reduce susceptibility to soft rot disease during storage.

Sulphur

Sulfur is essential for optimizing amino acid and protein production and nitrogen use efficiency. Sulfur helps reduce common and powdery scab. It improves skin appearance, boosts disease tolerance, and minimizes internal rust spot.

Calcium

Calcium is a key component of cell walls, ensuring stability and strength of the tubers. It influences nitrogen uptake, chlorophyll production, and tuber development. Calcium content in the peel affects potato skin appearance, disease tolerance, and minimizes internal rust spot and soft rot during storage. Calcium also reduces skin diseases like black scurf and powdery scab.

Key parameterNP2O5K2OMgOCaOSO3
Yield+++++++/-+/-
Tuber size+++/-+++
Tuber weight +++++
Skin set -++
Bruising and handling-+++++
Tuber color (internal blackening)+/-++
Dry matter content -+/--+/-
Starch content-++/-

+ = improving

– = decreasing

+/- = different results (depending on the rate of nutrient applied) 

Source: IPI bulletin #8. Fertilizing for high yield | POTATO and other.


Nutrient requirements and fertilization

The crop has high demand for nutrients and has a particularly high requirement for potassium – the tubers remove 1.5 times as much potassium as nitrogen and 3 or 4 times the amount of phosphate.
Fertilizer requirements are relatively high and for an irrigated crop they are 100 to 300 kg/ha N, 50 to 90 and 120-150 kg/ha P2O5 for fresh and processed and for seeds, respectively, and 250 to 350 kg/ha K2O.

NP2O5K2OMgOCaO
kg/mt yieldkg/mt yieldkg/mt yieldkg/mt yieldkg/mt yield
5.51.77.50.61.6

Typical nutrient removal rates of potato.
Presented under license from AGMATIX data repository.

Development of nutrient uptake by potato crop
Source: IPI bulletin #8. Fertilizing for high yield | POTATO

Deficiency symptoms

Nitrogen deficiencyThe foliage initially pale green coloration of leaf margins and tips
Eventually turns pale yellow
Reduced growth
leaf-fall premature
Phosphorus deficiencyGrowth is retarded particularly in the early stages
In severe cases the lower Ieaves turn purple
Leafets do not develop normally
Potassium deficiencyInternodes shortened
Leaves bluish-green in colour
Older leaves turn yellow with brown margins and apices
Necrotic batches appear
Magnesium deficiencyLower Ieaves more lightly colored than normal
Appears first on tips and margin of leaflets and then extending between the veins
In severe cases, necrotic patches between the veins
Sulphur deficiencySulphur deficiency in potatoes is like those of nitrogen deficiency
Sulphur deficiency usually appear first on young leaves

Source: IPI Crop Bulletin #8 and others.

Potassium deficiency in potato leaves. Courtesy IPI (K Gallery).

Potassium deficiency in potato leaves. Courtesy IPI (K Gallery).

For more pictures see also INRAE’s portal e-phytia (Potato – Printed Guide (inra.fr)

 

Literature

  1. FAO Land & Water (Potato | Land & Water | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | Land & Water | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (fao.org)
  2. IPI Crop Bulletin 8 (ipi_bulletin_8_fertilizing_for_high_yield_potato.pdf (ipipotash.org)
  3. Potato Facts & Figures (CIP, Potato Facts and Figures – International Potato Center (cipotato.org)
  4. The Importance of Nutrient Management for Potato Production Part I: Plant Nutrition and Yield. Koch et al., 2020. Potato Research 63:97–119.
  5. The Potato of the Future: Opportunities and Challenges in Sustainable Agri-food Systems. Devaux et al. 2021. Potato Research 64:681–720. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11540-021-09501-4
  6. Potato – Printed Guide (inra.fr)

 

Selected articles and guides

  1. Growing Potatoes – Fertilizers for Potatoes | ICL (icl-growingsolutions.com)
  2. Balanced Crop Nutrition Improves Potato Tuber Storage | ICL (icl-growingsolutions.com)
  3. Controlled Release Fertilizers – Meeting the Needs of the Crops | ICL (icl-growingsolutions.com)
  4. potato-crop-polysulphate-fertilization-ENG.pdf (icl-growingsolutions.com)
  5. Potassium Nutrition of the Potato Crop – the Indian Scenario. Trehan et al., 2009. pdf (ipipotash.org)
  6. Potential of Polyhalite Fertilizers to Enhance Potato Yield and Quality in the United Kingdom. Garnett, S.S., 2021. e-ifc-63-mar-2021-potato.pdf (ipipotash.org)
  7. Potassium Positively Affects Skin Characteristics of Sweet Potato Storage Roots. Klipcan et al., 2020. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10091385
  8. Effects of Polyhalite Fertilization on Skin Quality of Potato Tuber. Keren-Keiserman et al., 2019. Plant Sci., Volume 10 – 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.01379
  9. Potassium Positively Affects Skin Characteristics of Sweet Potato Storage Roots. Klipcan, et al., 2020. Agronomy, 10, 1385; doi:10.3390/agronomy10091385.

Product type

Product typeVery much usedModerately usedNot relevant
Potash Based Fertilizers+
Phosphate Based Fertilizers+
Complex & Blended Granular Fertilizers+
Polysulphate Based Fertilizers+
Water Soluble Fertilizers (WSF)+
Liquid Fertilizers+
Controlled Release Fertilizers (CRF)+
Biostimulants+
Organic Fertilizers+
Micronutrients Package+
Wetting Agents+
Application method
Foliar+
Fertigation+
Row application+
Planting holes+
Bulk blending+
Broadcast+
NPK granulation+
Technologies
E-Max+
Poly-S+
Resin+
V-Factor+
M-77+
F3 SurfActive+
X3-Active+
PeKacid+
DPI+
eqo.x+

Potato Trials

Potato with Agrocote Max
Precision agriculture trial station Van Den Borne Potatoes, The Netherlands

15

Yield increase
Sustainable Potato Trial
Interra Farm Ittre, Belgium, 2015

26

Yield increase
Potato with H2Flo
Karl-Johan Thim farm, Kristianstad, Skåne, Sweden, 2015

7

Yield increase

Q&A

Here are some frequently asked questions we received from farmers regarding growing potatoes.

  • You will need to apply approx. 50 * 7.5 = 375 kg/ha of potassium (K2O) using the appropriate fertilizer (MOP, SOP, polysulphate and other K sources). Bring into account available soil K (according to soil test).

  • Yes, of course. Sulfur is an essential nutrient for potato crop as it is required to optimize the high demand for nitrogen, the synthesis of amino acids and proteins, reduce the occurrence of common and powdery scab. Sulphur fertilizers include polysulphate, SOP, SSP, and various Mg sulphate fertilizers.

  • Certainly. Adding organic matter to soils, especially to light textured soils typical for potato crop, improves soil health, water capacity and nutrient supply.

Do you have more questions?

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