Potato Quality: Organic vs Conventional

Abstract: The effects of organic versus conventional crop management practices (fertilisation, crop protection) and preceding crop on potato tuber yield (total, marketable, tuber size grade distribution) and quality (proportion of diseased, green and damaged tubers, tuber macro-nutrient concentrations) parameters were investigated over six years (2004-2009) as part of a long-term factorial field trial in North East England. Inter-year variability (the effects of weather and preceding crop) was observed to have a profound effect on yields and quality parameters, and this variability was greater in organic fertility systems. Total and marketable yields were significantly reduced by the use of both organic crop protection and fertility management. However, the yield gap between organic and conventional fertilisation regimes was greater and more variable than that between crop protection practices. This appears to be attributable mainly to lower and less predictable nitrogen supply in organically fertilised crops. Increased incidence of late blight in organic crop protection systems only occurred when conventional fertilisation was applied. In organically fertilised crops yield was significantly higher following grass/red clover leys than winter wheat, but there was no pre-crop effect in conventionally fertilised crops. The results highlight that nitrogen supply from organic fertilisers rather than inefficient pest and disease control may be the major limiting factor for yields in organic potato production systems. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Reference: Palmer, M. W., et al. (2013). The influence of organic and conventional fertilisation and crop protection practices, preceding crop, harvest year and weather conditions on yield and quality of potato (Solanum tuberosum) in a long-term management trial. European Journal of Agronomy 49: 83-92. Available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eja.2013.03.004