Growing Potato crop nutrition advice

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

Crop nutrition advice for growing potato (Solanum tuberosum)

  • The potato (Solanum tuberosum)belongs to the Solanaceae family, which is commonly known as the nightshade family.

  • This popular, versatile and widely consumed crop is grown across a diverse range of states in the USA. Commercial potato cultivation occurs in approximately 30 states, with varying climates and soil conditions influencing production.

  • Top producing states are Idaho, Washington, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Colorado.

Potato plants with healthy leaves
Potatoes harvested in optimum condition

What soil type, pH and climate do potatoes prefer?

  • Potatoes prefer full-sun and well-drained, loose, and friable soil that offers adequate aeration to facilitate root and tuber growth.
  • Sandy loam and loamy soils are often well-suited
  • Potatoes thrive in slightly acidic to neutral soil that promotes nutrient availability (5.5-6.7 pH)
  • Cooler temperatures (59°F to 70°F during the growing season) can help promote optimal tuber development

What nutrients are most important for potato yield and quality?

In addition to required macronutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), potatoes also require calcium, sulfur and magnesium in sufficient quantities to ensure quality crop, reduce instances of scab and promote bulking. While other micronutrients are required in lower quantities, balanced nutrition is important for healthy crop growth.

Estimated nutrient uptake (kg/t) by: 

Above ground biomass21425330251213

Source: IPNI

Role of nutrients

Key parameterNP2O5K2OMgCS
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 – Fertilizing for high yield | POTATO 

Nutrient deficiencies

NitrogenLeaves are pale green (general chlorosis) 
Old leaves remain yellow, while younger leaves turn darker 
Plants will produce less stems and tubers 
PhosphorusPlant growth is stunted 
Darker color than normal 
Lower leaf surface gray green 
Leaflets roll upwards if deficiency is severe. 
It occurs on calcareous and heavy soils, where P can be fixed 
PotassiumPotassium deficiency symptoms normally Scorched appearance with black pigmentation and necrotic edges (dead tissues) 
Symptoms appear on the young, full-sized leaves 
Common in light soils due to easier leaching.  
CalciumModerate calcium deficiency may not appear but in severe situations leaf’s margin can be affected 
Brown blotches may appear around the stolon end of the tubers 
Tubers may show severe skin cracking  
Deficiencies are severe in soils with pH below 5 
MagnesiumChlorosis of leaf margins of older leaves. Yellowing Symptoms appear first on the older leaves, due to its mobility 
General chlorosis with veins remaining green  
Scorched appearance caused by interveinal necrosis 
Can occur on sandy soils and when high K level were applied 
SulfurSymptoms are similar to nitrogen deficiency, but deficiency symptoms occur first in younger leaves (as yellowing similar N deficiency) 
General chlorosis 
The yellowing is uniform and general 
It may occur on loamy sand soils 


What cultivars are best suited for US growers?

  • Choosing potato cultivars well-adapted to local climate and soil conditions enhances overall success.
  • Choice depends on various climactic factors, soil types, and the intended crop use (fresh, processing).
  • It is important to consult with local agricultural extension services to stay up to date on agronomic advancements.
  • Popular US cultivars include Russet Burbank, Russet Norkotah, Yukon Gold, Red Pontiac, Kennebec and various fingerling varieties.

What are common challenges for US potato producers?

Potato producers in the United States face various challenges that can impact the success and profitability of their crops. Some of the most common challenges include:

  • Disease and pest management with common issues such as late blight (caused by fungus-like oomycete) and aphids, and Colorado potato beetle
  • Nutrient management and soil health to maintain optimal fertility and reduce nutrient imbalances that can affect yield and quality and instances of scab
  • Storage and quality maintenance to avoid disease, rot and sprouting

Addressing these challenges often involves a combination of integrated pest management, sustainable agricultural practices, balanced fertility management, and adopting new technologies.

Potato trials

Polysulphate on Potatoes
Marshall, Michigan, USA, 2021


Marketable yields increase
Polysulphate on Potatoes
Prince Edward Island, Canada


CWT/A increase
Polysulphate on Potatoes
Vandermeere, North Carolina, USA, 2021


Marketable yield increase


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

  • This decision begins with a soil test, however, potatoes are highly responsive to P and may require additional fertilizer beyond what the soil test recommends. Additional strategies to improve the efficiency of P fertilizer use include placement close to the seed piece, use of humic or fulvic acids, and acidifying P fertilizers like Agrolution pHLow to ensure maximum availability to the plant. 

  • Sulfur is essential for all crops. In potatoes, adequate sulfur nutrition can reduce sugar development in storage and increase tuber yields. 

  • Calcium is important in the development of roots and shoots and will also help with reducing storage losses. 

  • Yes, improving the health of the soil will improve water management and nutrient availability.

Need expert advice on your plant nutrition plan?

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