Once decided to grow potatoes in the next season, a series of tactical decisions are taken by the grower before the crop is planted. The variety is chosen, the seed size, seed rate and planting pattern and the certification level of the seed bought or the use of farm saved seed.
It is decided to sell by contract to a trader or processing company or to sell the produce after harvest in the open market. Pre-planting soil samples are taken to assess the levels of minerals and the presence of nematodes. It is decided to supply all the needed nitrogen at once before planting or to deliver only part and split the dose. The species and pathotype (only vary in plant resistance) of nematodes influence the choice of the potato variety and the decision to treat the soil with a nematicide before planting.
Besides, before planting a decision is taken about the proportion of minerals to be applied from organic sources such as manure, compost, slurry and green manure on the one hand and from synthetic fertilizers on the other. Growers are assisted in taking tactical decisions based on field and market information (requirements and resistances), characteristics of the propagation material and the outcome of the pre-planting assessments of the soil.
Once the crop is planted, in the course of the cropping season, operational decisions are made continuously by the grower regarding the control of diseases, pests and weeds, hilling, irrigation, haulm killing date and means, harvest time, store loading, management of temperature and level of CO2 in the store. Many growers make use of decision support systems to apply water, minerals and pesticides.
Top image: Pre-planting decisions are motivated by market requirements that are met by choice of variety and measures that influence soil health and fertility.
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