Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Production Research
Newco produces seed potatoes in the open air


November 16, 2010
By Fruit & Vegetable

Topics

newcopotatoes01November 15, 2010 – Soil
is no longer necessary for growing potatoes, at least for growing seed
potatoes.

November 15, 2010 – Soil
is no longer necessary for growing potatoes, at least for growing seed
potatoes.

Newco, a potato technology
transference company, is undertaking a research project, together with
Neiker-Tecnalia, from the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and
Development
, for producing tubers in air by means of a novel system known as
aeroponics.

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newcopotatoes01 
  

Never before in Spain has
the first generation of seed potatoes been produced on a large scale by means
of aeroponic growth. The system increases productivity as more than 20 tubers
per plant can be obtained instead of the three or four achieved using
conventional methods. It also reduces the rate of soil-based diseases and is a
more sustainable system, requiring lower inputs of water and fertilizers.
Furthermore, aeroponics enables providing precisely the amount of both items
needed by the plant at each phase of its development.

The aeroponic system of
cultivation for the production of first generation seed potatoes is carried out
in greenhouses and basically consists of maintaining the roots of the plant in
the air and in conditions of total darkness. In order for the plant and the
tubers to develop, nutrients are applied to the roots by means of a nebulizer
system, where nutrient-enriched water is sprayed on them periodically. Roots
grow in the air, and this enables a great exposure to air and avoids the
contact of the tubers with soil pathogens.

newcopotatoes02 
  

One positive aspect of
this system is the progress of the tubers can be continually controlled,
enabling their harvesting at the moment of optimum growth. In the case of first
generation seed potatoes, the most appropriate size is considered to be between
20 and 25 mm in diameter. In this way, a homogeneous production can be achieved
– something that is not possible with traditional cultivation given that all
the tubers are harvested at the same time and they do not show the same
development or size.

The conventional
production method for first generation seed potatoes is based on high-density
plantations in peat substrate and in greenhouses. This kind of production is
highly labour intensive and with high costs due to the low numbers of tubers
produced per plant (between three and four tuber-seeds).

The production of seed
potatoes follows a specific route map, starting with the in vitro
multiplication of plants free of disease. These plants are then cultivated to
obtain the tuber-seeds or minitubers, which show a high health quality level
and are the first generation seeds (prebasic). These minitubers are the
starting material for obtaining basic seed in its categories SuperElite and
Elite. From this basic seed, Certificate A seed can be obtained, commonly
employed to produce potatoes for consumption.

The Newco and
Neiker-Tecnalia research project is aimed at developing the production of seed
potatoes, something that is not being performed or achieved in Spain but in a
very small quantity. The production of minitubers requires high technological
skills and is currently practically non-existent in Spain. This means Spanish
seed potato producers have to import them from countries like France, Holland
and Scotland.