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Requirements for storing potato tubers

December 13, 2022

Potatoes are harvested at peak times throughout the year. In temperate climates in early autumn and in subtropical winter climates the crop is harvested in early spring. In Mediterranean climates, there is one harvest late spring and one late autumn, two harvests per year associated with suitable temperature regimes. This is similar to the tropical highlands where the two harvest peaks are associated with one long or two short rainy seasons; with irrigation, the crop has harvest periods up to four times per year.

One single harvest period per year requires a longer storage period – if the crop is to be available throughout the year – than when two or more harvests take place. The harvest in any region of a crop does not take place within a few weeks but usually spans about one month. Where the growing season is long, over 140 days, with early harvests that accept a lower yield in favor of a higher price, the harvest period exceeds two months in regions like northern Europe.

Storage hardly practiced in tropical highlands

With a short growing season and rapidly deteriorating weather due to extremely high temperatures, such as in Gujarat, India, the harvest is carried out within a fortnight. At the South Island in New Zealand, winters are short and summers are mild, here growers have flexibility in planting and harvesting, resulting in a harvest period of over three months. A similar situation occurs in the southeast region of the Buenos Aires province in Argentina. At Sandveld in South Africa, North West of Cape Town, the near ocean tempers the temperature throughout the year, so growers cultivate and harvest throughout the year. Here and in tropical highlands, storage of potatoes is hardly practiced. Although potato prices fluctuate considerably throughout the year, the almost continuous availability of fresh tubers makes storage unprofitable. Storage in dedicated buildings is then too costly and is accompanied by loss of quality compared to that of freshly harvested tubers.

The length of the storage period depends on the number of harvests per year and on the length of the harvest period at a particular site. This varies from a few months in temperate climates to a few weeks only where the temperature rises quickly at the end of winter and where the crop needs to be evacuated rapidly. Storage permits to supply the market throughout the year and adds value to the crop.


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