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Soil Preparation

Quick, even emergence and good early crop growth are essential in the quest for good yields of quality potatoes.

Where grass is ploughed up it is recommended that grass is burned off in advance of ploughing using Glyphosate. Deep cultivation (down to approximately 25 cm) is an essential start to seedbed preparation.

The aim of subsequent cultivations is to provide a fine seedbed with 12 - 15 cm of clod free tilth. Loose cloddy seedbeds will dry out, causing slow growth, irregular emergence and low stem counts. Wait until soils are dry enough, and then use an appropriate implement for cultivation.

Cultivating soils that are not dry often results in compaction, and damage to soil structure. This restricts the rooting capacity and subsequent yield of the potato plant.

Ploughed ground is usually cultivated with a heavy tine cultivator prior to bed tilling and ridging. Bed tilling and ridging involves cultivating the soil to a depth of 15 -18 cm, and leaving it in large ridges between 175 – 185 cm in width.


A firm fine seedbed is essential for planting

Stone separation is the process of removing stones and clods from the formed ridges, and burying them between alternate rows. This substantially reduces tuber damage during harvesting, and greatly increases harvester output.

The ridges should have been adequately cultivated prior to stone separation to ensure there are no excess clods to be removed. Soils need to be dry to ensure good separation whilst also avoiding damage to soil structure.



Which Variety

Consumers prefer high dry matter varieties with red skin. Rooster is the most popular variety in Ireland today.

Since its release in 1991, the area under production has grown to over 40% of the total potato ware area in Ireland today. The success of Rooster is due largely to its excellent taste and cooking quality, as well as its superior agronomic characteristics.

There are a number of important factors to consider when selecting a potato variety for the ware trade.

These include:

  • Yield
  • Eating quality
  • Maturity
  • Keeping quality
  • Disease resistance
  • Seed availability

Yield – High yields are essential to enable producers to make a profit. Variety is a major determinant of yield.

Eating quality – Although quality preferences of consumers are changing most consumers prefer high dry matter potatoes and red skinned varieties.

Maturity – Choose varieties which mature in succession – aim to have harvesting completed by the end of October.

Keeping Quality – Varieties differ in their suitability for prolonged storage. Varieties like Golden Wonder and Rooster store well. Kerr’s Pink is difficult to store.

Disease Resistance – Varieties differ in their resistance to disease. Losses can be reduced or eliminated by being familiar with the disease resistance of the varieties being grown so that adequate control measures can be taken.


Main Crop Varieties for the Home Ware Market

Early Main Crop Record
Late Main Crop Kerr's Pink, Rooster
Very Late Main Crop Golden Wonder

Record is a yellow fleshed early main crop variety with moderate yields. It is subject to internal bruising if harvested in cold condition or handled unproperly. It is susceptible to foliage blight and virus yellow but is resistant to spraying. Good for chips and boiling.


Kerr’s Pink is a red skinned late main crop variety with deep eyes. It is a white fleshed, high dry matter, floury variety used for boiling, baking and home chipping.

It is susceptible to foliar and tuber blight and to common scab. Because of its poor keeping quality it is difficult to store. In some years it may be adversely affected by secondary growth.


Golden Wonder is a very late main crop variety which is slow to sprout and is suitable for prolonged storage. It is susceptible to the main foliage diseases but the tubers are resistant to blight, common scab and gangrene. It is a very high dry matter variety, is very floury to eat and is popular for boiling.


Rooster is a moderately high yielding red skinned and yellow fleshed variety. Rooster is susceptible to foliage blight but tuber blight resistance is fairly good. It has good resistance to common scab and leaf roll virus. It is classed a medium dry potato and is used Mainly for boiling, roasting and baking.


Cultra has a white skin with pink eyes and a cream flesh. It is probably the most popular home grown white potato in the country. The potato is slightly waxier in texture with a good skin finish. The variety is suitable for baking, boiling steaming and roasting.


Queens are a second early potato variety and are available from late June to September. Generally Queens begin to replace Home Guard in late June and become the mainstay of the Irish potato market for the summer. The variety has white skin and flesh, an excellent floury texture, beautiful taste and can be used for boiling, steaming, roasting and chipping.



Sourcing Seed

Certified seed should be ordered and purchased from an approved source. The use of uncertified seed may lead to virus and fungal disease outbreaks.

The Department of Agriculture operates a seed certification scheme:

Seed Certification Scheme - Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine

Seed potatoes need to be stored over winter in a refrigerated store at 4°C to prevent over-sprouting. Poor storage of seed results in excessive sprouting and sprout breakage which in turn leads to:

  • Poor crop vigour
  • Irregular germination
  • Wide range of stem numbers

Chitting is the controlled production of sprouts on potato tubers. This is done to bring forward harvest date and to increase yield and quality. More and more main crop producers are chitting their seed for early maturity, and to lengthen the harvest window. In chitting, light and temperature are controlled to ensure the production of 1cm long strong sprouts.


Time of Planting

The optimum planting time for maincrop potatoes is March - April. As a general rule planting should not take place in unsuitable soil conditions, i.e. soils which are cold and wet. Ideally, soil temperatures should be around 70C for three consecutive days before planting. In areas where frost is a risk (i.e., inland, low-lying areas) sowing after mid-March reduces the risk of frost damage to the crop.


Depth of Planting

Potatoes should planted at a uniform depth of about 12-15 cm below the surface of the ridge and 4 cm above the base of the furrow to protect the seed in wet periods. Very small seed should not be planted too deep, as it may struggle to emerge and be less vigorous. Some varieties e.g. records need to be planted deep (below 10 cm) to avoid greening.


Seeding Rate and Spacing

Seeding rate depends on what spacing is choosen between the ridges and the distance between tubers in the same ridge.
A ridge width of 80 cm is recommended, but row widths of up to 90 cm can be used.


Wide rows have certain advantages:

(a) More weathered or cultivated soil is available to make a good ridge.

(b) The sides of the ridge are less likely to be compacted by tractor tyres, thus reducing clod formation and tuber greening.

(c) Faster work rate when planting the crop.


Research generally indicates that row width of up to 90 cm has little or no effect on yield providing that the seeding rate is not altered, i.e. seed is planted closer in wider rows.

Seeding rate is important for two main reasons:

(a) Seed is a major cost item and therefore must be used effectively.

(b) Seeding rate has a large influence on the size of the tubers produced, and so must be adjusted to suit market requirements.


Split grading of seed, 35 – 45 mm and 45 – 55 mm is advisable to facilitate easier planting and accurate spacing of tubers. Split grading of seed will produce a more uniform crop. Seed size should match the capacity of the planter cups. Plant at the correct speed to obtain accurate placement. Ensure that the planter is in proper working order. Spot checking of the planted drills and the planter, on an ongoing basis, is necessary to ensure accuracy.


Optimum Spacing for Maincrop Potato Varieties - Planted in 80 cm rows

 RecordsKerr's PinkGolden Wonder
Small seed (35-45mm) 20-25cm 20-25cm 20-25cm
Large seed (45-55mm) 28-33cm 28-33cm 28-33cm

In wider rows, the spacing between tubers should be reduced to maintain the seed rate per hectare. For example, if the rows are 90cm apart, then plant small seed (35-45) at 17-21 cm spacings. The optimum seed rate and seed spacing varies greatly depending on the type of production (i.e. the size of tubers required), variety, conditions of growth and the cost of seed. To increase tuber numbers and reduce tuber size, increase the seeding rate with larger seed and /or closer spacing. Do the reverse to reduce tuber numbers and increase tuber size i.e. small seed with wider spacing.

If placing fertiliser at planting time ensure that it is positioned 10cm away from the tuber to avoid scorching. Fertilisers can be reduced by 20% if placed in the row.