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Impact of Agronomic Strategies (Seed Tuber Pre-sprouting, Cultivar Choice) to Control Late Blight (Phytophthora infestans) on Tuber Growth and Yield in Organic Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) Crops


In order to optimize potato crop management in organic farming systems, knowledge of crop growth processes in relation to limitations and reductions by nitrogen (N) and disease is necessary. This paper examines the effect of different prevention measures (seed tuber pre-sprouting, choice of cultivars: resistance to Phytophthora infestans; earliness of tuber initiation) against disease-related constraints on yields, depending on the N-mediated growing conditions of organic potato crops. Under conditions of a relatively high N supply, accelerating the early development and tuber initiation of potato crops by seed tuber pre-sprouting (yield increase of c. 18–23%) or the selective choice of cultivars with an earlier tuber initiation (yield increase of c. 0–21%) are the most effective strategies in combating late blight. They bring forward the crop development c. 7–10 days, escaping the negative impact of the fungus on tuber growth. Under conditions of a relatively low N supply, these strategies do not affect final tuber yield. The reason for the differences of the effect depending on N supply of the crops is, that the lower the N supply, the shorter the period of time over which tuber growth takes place, independent of whether P. infestans becomes severe or not. Tuber growth of organic crops low in N has mostly ceased by the time late blight becomes potentially important for limiting yield, with the consequence that preventative measures against P. infestans are meaningless. Surprisingly, the level of cultivar haulm resistance to late blight did not affect tuber yields in years with an early and strong late blight development. Probably, the positive effect of a longer resistance to the fungus (c. 1 week) was counterbalanced by a later tuber initiation (also c. 1 week). In years with a moderate late blight incidence, less susceptible cultivars were able to produce higher tuber yields on fields with a lower N availability (c. 17–20%), probably due to higher N use efficiency and a better match of N mineralization and N uptake. Under conditions of a relatively high N supply, the tested cultivars with a higher haulm resistance to late blight were not able to improve tuber yields.

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Correspondence to Kurt Möller.

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Möller, K., Reents, HJ. Impact of Agronomic Strategies (Seed Tuber Pre-sprouting, Cultivar Choice) to Control Late Blight (Phytophthora infestans) on Tuber Growth and Yield in Organic Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) Crops. Potato Res. 50, 15–29 (2007).

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  • Nitrogen
  • Phytophthora infestans
  • Pre-sprouting
  • Resistance
  • Earliness of tuber initiation
  • Organic farming