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Potato Research

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 27–42 | Cite as

Challenges to Organic Potato Farming: Disease and Nutrient Management

  • M. R. FinckhEmail author
  • E. Schulte-Geldermann
  • C. Bruns
Article

Abstract

For organic potato producers the two main challenges are disease and nutrient management. Both factors are limited by regulations that on the one hand prohibit the use of chemical fertilisers, especially nitrogen and, on the other hand, most synthetic pesticides. Late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans is commonly thought to be the factor most limiting yield. However, because there is no really effective fungicide available to control late blight, there are virtually no yield loss data available for organic farming conditions. In this paper the state of the art of organic potato management with respect to disease and nutrient management is summarised. In a second part, the interactive effects of N-availability in the soil, climatic conditions and late blight were studied in the presence and absence of copper fungicides from 2002–2004 for the mid-early main-crop potato cv. Nicola. From the experimental work it became clear that copper fungicides in most cases do slow down epidemics adding an average of 3 days to the growth duration. However, only 30% of the variation in yield could be attributed to disease reduction. A model including disease reduction, growth duration and temperature sum from planting until 60% disease severity was reached, and soil mineral N contents at 10 days after emergence could explain 75% of the observed variation in yield. However, the model failed when N-supply was extremely high. The implications of the results on the management of organic potatoes with respect to cultivar choice, nutrient and disease management are discussed. In conclusion, several points emerge from the results: In organic farming, yields are foremost limited by nutrient availability in spring and early summer. The effects of late blight on yields may often be overestimated and cannot be deducted from results in conventional farming because of the strong interaction with nutrient status. Resistance clearly remains the most important strategy against late blight in organic potato production. However, as important or even more important than resistance is the early development and bulking behaviour and the ability of a cultivar to make use of organic nutrients efficiently. In the absence of efficient organic pesticides it is possible to reduce blight pressure to a certain extent by arranging the crop in small narrow fields perpendicular to the main wind direction neighboured either by non-hosts or completely resistant potatoes.

Keywords

Organic farming plant nutrition Phytophthora infestans yield loss copper fungicides 

Abbreviations

AUDC

area under the disease progress curve

Days

growth duration (days) from planting until 60% diseased leaf area

N10

N-min at day 10 after emergence

N21

N-min at day 21 after emergence

Ttot

temperature sum: sum of daily mean temperatures from planting until 60% diseased leaf area

Disred

disease reduction: AUDC with copper application divided by AUDC without copper application

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Copyright information

© EAPR 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. R. Finckh
    • 1
    Email author
  • E. Schulte-Geldermann
    • 1
  • C. Bruns
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Organic Agricultural SciencesUniversity of KasselWitzenhausenGermany

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