Identifying nitrogen-efficient potato cultivars for organic farming
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In organic farming, nitrogen efficiency of potato might vary among cultivars, even within the same maturity type. We therefore analysed in depth the response to nitrogen of a diverse set of cultivars, grown at different locations (differing in soil type and management) and in four years (differing in temperature and rainfall patterns). Yield increased with an increase in nitrogen supply and with growing later cultivars if the crop cycle lasted long enough. When crops had to be flamed to prevent spread of late blight, late cultivars yielded less than early cultivars, especially under high nitrogen. By measuring the fraction of soil covered by green leaves throughout the growing season and using a model, we analysed canopy development in detail and related nitrogen and genotype sensitive model parameters to tuber yield. In one year with early, temporary drought, model prediction was poor. We observed that cultivars that rapidly established a high maximum soil cover, maintained that maximum for long and senesced slowly, could sustain high yields. When late-blight infection was late, these (mid)-late cultivars showed high agronomic nitrogen use efficiency, but were not (always) high in nitrogen uptake efficiency, accumulation of nitrogen in the tubers or nitrogen utilisation efficiency. When late-blight infection started early, early or mid-late cultivars that rapidly established a high maximum soil cover under low nitrogen availability gave best performance. In most years, early canopy development is responsive to nitrogen, shows genetic variation, and is significantly related to early tuber yield. Nitrogen-efficient cultivars suitable for organic production should have rapid early canopy development, a high agronomic nitrogen use efficiency and nitrogen utilisation efficiency, but a low nitrogen concentration in the tubers.
KeywordsBreeding Canopy development Nitrogen use efficiency Resource use efficiency Selection criteria Solanum tuberosum L. Tuber yield
This project was financially supported by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs under the Research Programme Bioconnect for Organic Plant Breeding from 2008 to 2011. We are grateful for the valuable contribution from the supervising committee to the discussions on the results during the project years.
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