How difficult is it to grow potatoes
Potatoes are planted with a potato planter in April or May, when the soil is dry enough. They germinate best at soil temperatures of eight to ten degrees. In order to achieve a long vegetation period until harvest, the potatoes have to be put in the ground as early as possible in the year. But then the risk of frost damage is greatest.
Around 40,000 plants for table potatoes grow on one hectare, and 37,000 for industrial potatoes. Here you plant less so that the potatoes have more space and can become thicker.
For potatoes, cultivation in dams has established itself. The earth warms up slightly, which is good for heat-loving plants.
Most of the work in the potato field can be done with the help of machines. It is harvested when the tubers are ripe and have firm skin. This is checked with the thumb test: by pressing the thumb, an attempt is made to push off the shell at the end of the crown - the upper part of the tuber. If the peel tears or comes off, the tuber is not yet peeled and should remain in the ground.
New potatoes are an exception: they can in principle also be harvested with green leaves. Since the shell is not yet firm, it can only be stored for a short time.
The machines used to harvest potatoes are called harvesters. They can harvest up to four potato ridges at once. To do this, the entire dam with soil, tubers and weeds is picked up by the machine. The tubers are sieved out, clods, stones and herbs are sorted out. This is mostly done by machine, but sometimes also by hand. To do this, some workers drive along on the harvester. The processes in the potato harvester are carried out as carefully as possible so as not to damage the potatoes.
In order to achieve higher market prices with an early harvest, some farmers protect their potato fields with foil. That means a lot of manual work. Pre-germination is also a method with which the harvest date can be brought forward. The attempt is made to germinate the tubers as early as January or February through targeted changes in temperature and light conditions. As a rule, four to six strong germs form per tuber. These sprouts give the potatoes a one to two week head start before harvest.
Storage and post-harvest treatment
After the harvest, potatoes go straight to the market, are stored or processed. To do this, they are first sorted according to size in a sorting system. This is usually done using a vibrating machine. It consists of grids on several floors, which become more and more tightly meshed towards the bottom. Only the largest potatoes remain on the upper floor, smaller and smaller ones collect on the lower floor. Damaged, stained or sprouted potatoes are sorted out by machine or by hand.
The storage of the potatoes begins with the drying aeration, as the tubers come out of the earth moist. The actual storage takes place at a temperature of four degrees and a high humidity of 95 percent. Before they are sold, the tubers are slowly warmed up to ten degrees Celsius and damaged, rotten or green tubers are removed. Such storage losses always occur. Major losses are caused by diseases that only become visible in the camp and cannot be combated.
Potatoes from conventional cultivation may be treated with anti-sprouting agents after harvesting in order to prevent the potatoes from germinating during storage. Potatoes treated in this way can be recognized by the note “Treated after harvest”. The most commonly used sprout inhibitor is chlorpropham. This degrades in the course of storage, so that the producers have to wait a few weeks before they can put the goods on the market without exceeding the maximum permitted residue levels. If you want to buy potatoes without this treatment, you can use organic goods in which only caraway or peppermint oil can be used to inhibit germs. New potatoes are also mostly untreated, as they are not suitable for longer storage.
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