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How To Successfully Grow Irish Potatoes

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In Uganda, Irish potatoes are mainly grown in the districts of Kabale, Kisoro, Nebbi, Kasese, Mbale Kapchorwa, and areas around Mt. Rwenzori. This is because of the low temperatures in those areas.

Irish potatoes grow well in areas that receive regular rainfall and whose temperatures range between 10ºC and 23ºC.  They perform best in loose, well-drained, slightly acidic soils. Poorly drained soils often lead to low yields, while heavy soils cause tubers to be small and rough.

Moses Kiptala, a famous Irish potato farmer in Mengya village, in Kween district says most varieties grown include Rutuku, Victoria, Kisoro, Nakpot 1, Nakpot 2, Nakpot 3, Kruzer, and Sangema.

According to Kiptala Victoria is the most commercially grown variety. It is high-yielding, matures fast and is resistant to bacterial wilt.

Seed preparation Irish potatoes are grown from pieces of the tuber. This seed piece provides food for the plant until it grows roots.

Isaac Malinga another irish potato farmer who also owns an ambient ware potato storage says the seed potato contains buds or ‘eyes’, which sprout and grow into plants.

According to Malinga, a good seed should have at least one good ‘eye’, a farmer acquires seeds from a certified source, research stations, or established Irish potato seed producers.

“For any commercial farmer he or she can grow his/her own seed. To do this, select mature damage-free tubers. You can also keep the potato tubers in a warm place in the field for about 15 to 20 days before planting”, Malinga advises.

Let them sprout at a temperature of 15ºC – 20ºC for 10 – 15 days. Select the healthy sprouted potatoes for planting and dispose of the rotten tubers.

Garden preparation

According to Kiptala it is important to choose land with well-drained sandy loamy soils.

-Clear the bush and plough the land to soften it.

-Dig for the second time after two weeks and make ridges. Adequate tilling and drainage are essential for sufficient oxygen supply in the soil, which is a vital ingredient for Irish potato growth.

-Irish potatoes grow best on raised beds. This can be done in two ways; during initial land preparation or immediately after planting. Raised beds lead to improvement in soil moisture, temperature, adequate aeration, and drainage.

-Avoid planting in water-logged areas since this will cause seeds to rot.

Gideon Zaake an agronomist says the application of fertilisers, is very important, Irish potatoes need adequate fertilisers. Apply most of the fertiliser before planting.

He says the fertiliser should not touch the seed to avoid rotting. Before applying the fertiliser, flatten the beds so they are 6 to 8 inches high and 10 to 12 inches wide.

According to different farming, organisations spacing Make ridges of 15-30cm (6-12inches) high, spaced 2ft (60cm) apart. Plant big sprouted healthy tubers spaced at 30cm in rows, 5-7.5cm deep for big tubers. In case of single rows, leave 2ft (60cm) to 3ft (90cm) and in case of double rows, leave a space of 6ft (180 cm) between the rows.

Weeding Weeds reduce crop yields because they compete for moisture, nutrients and light. They also act as an alternate hosts for pests and diseases. For this reason, weed when the crop is about 10cm high and do the second weeding when it is 20-25cm high. Early weeding is preferred to reduce contact between plants to avoid the spread of viruses.

-Harvesting is done after 75 to 140 days from planting, depending on the variety.

-Irish potatoes are generally mature when the plant starts to turn yellow.

-To harvest Irish potatoes, cut off stems two weeks before harvesting to harden the tubers. Dig them out with a forked hoe.

-Avoid harvesting when the soil is wet to prevent the spread of fungal diseases.

-Avoid cutting the stem tubers by scooping at a distance of 1.5ft from the plant.

-Make heaps for easy collection.

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