POTATO growers are being encouraged to make the most of their time between crops by arranging soil testing to understand soil fertility and nutrient limitations.
Incitec Pivot Fertilisers' technical agronomist horticulture, Conrad Leeks, said once harvesting is complete, growers have the perfect opportunity to start planning their fertiliser requirements for next season.
Mr Leeks said soil testing was the best place to start for first class fertiliser plans.
"Soil testing provides a strong foundation for understanding soil fertility, because it helps refine the types and quantities of nutrients that will be needed to maximise productivity," he said.
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He recommended soil sampling several weeks or even two to three months before planting if there is likely to be a need for ameliorants like lime or gypsum.
"It is important to use a credible and accredited laboratory for soil testing, such as the Nutrient Advantage laboratory, which is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities," he said.
"Having soil test results on hand will help greatly with developing appropriate fertiliser recommendations tailored to individual crops."
Mr Leeks said crop fertiliser requirements varied from site to site, depending on soil fertility and yield targets.
"There is no one fertiliser program that can be used for every crop and every situation for best results," he said.
"However, we do know that potato crops require high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to grow and yield to their full potential and to replace nutrients removed at harvest.
"An excellent fertiliser choice when planting potatoes is Nitrophoska Special, a balanced compound fertiliser which matches early nutrient requirements of many potato crops."
Nitrophoska Special contains 12.5 per cent nitrogen, 5.2pc phosphorus, 14.1pc potassium, 8pc sulphur, plus some magnesium, boron and zinc in every granule.
"Phosphorus is crucial to enhancing early crop growth and tuber set, as well as promoting tuber maturity," he said.
"Nitrogen is the driver for growth and high yields and is needed most at tuber initiation and tuber bulking. It can be topped up at these crop stages to improve use efficiency."
Mr Leeks suggested that where large amounts of potassium were needed, it may be beneficial to plan a side dress application six to eight weeks after planting, as well as including some potassium in the planting fertiliser.
While soil testing is the foundation to the crop's fertiliser plan, he also encouraged growers to use tissue testing to assess the crop's need for macro and micro nutrients during the growing period.
"Tissue testing is available from the Nutrient Advantage laboratory to reveal any hidden hunger for nutrients, with results returned within three days of receiving the samples," he said.
"This completes the cycle started with soil testing and gives growers the opportunity to fertilise to correct any nutrient imbalances that could affect yield."
For more information and advice on developing a fertiliser program for potatoes, see your local Fertcare accredited adviser.
- Copy supplied by Incitec Pivot.