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Q: I am a potato farmer in Kinangop and I have heard that Yara has good fertilisers for the crop. Please advise on how to grow and get good harvest from potatoes.

Like many other crops, starting with the right seeds is important, and it is probably even more important for potato to plant clean certified materials that are free of diseases.

The seed must also be at the right physiological stage with at least 4-5 sprouted eyes. All other agronomic practices such as weed, pest and disease management have to be adhered to as well.

Fertilisation

Application of fertilisers that supply balanced nutrients for potatoes, giving both primary, secondary and micro-nutrients is critical for high and quality yields.

Critical to remember in potatoes is that the peak nutrients uptake for most varieties is between 30-35 days after germination.

This means that all fertilisers need to be applied not later than five weeks after germination.

Influencing yield and quality

Application of an NPK fertiliser with an adequate supply of phosphorous such as UNIK 17 is critical at the planting stage.

This is so because phosphorous is an important element in determining especially the tuber numbers (besides the variety type) and this is signalled early in the growing stages for potatoes.

The nitrogen and potassium are critical in supporting early crop establishment.

A top-dressing with a good NPK with a relatively high amounts of potassium like YaraMila WINNER at tuber initiation stage (2-3 weeks after germination) and a supply of soluble calcium at this stage are critical.

This is so because the potassium and nitrogen supplied is good for good canopy development, accumulating enough biomass to support vigorous growth and especially bulking of the tubers to produce large tubers.

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Potassium also helps enhance the potato cropโ€™s tolerance to moisture stress. Calcium is critical in developing a tough skin and prevents bruising and cracking of potato tubers, as well as reduces incidences of tuber diseases such as Erwinia soft rots.

Other agronomic practices

Potatoes are sensitive to diseases such as blights, which also thrive under the wet, cold climates adapted for potato production.

It is, therefore, important to maintain a regular preventive spray programme against blights and other pests.

Hilling/earthing up is an important practice to also allow for good tuber expansion and avoid physiological disorders like greening of the tubers.

In short, a good balanced fertilisation regime applied at the right time, as well as other agronomic practices will give you good yields and good quality tubers.

For crop specific fertiliser recommendations, please consult the following agronomists in your area:
Western and Nyanza, Daniel Mui, 0702466343.
Rift Valley, Dennis Nyandaya, 0702466372.
Central, Robert Ngatia, 0702466318.

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