While going through the history of our blog we discovered that we had more visits to the blog post concerning skin set on potatoes than any other. We decided it’s time to revisit that blog but also post a new one on what it takes to set up a potato crop for good skin set.
The process of skin set, the thickening of the outer-most cells on the potato, is a natural occurrence when the potato plant has completed the movement of sugars from the leaves to the tubers. It is part of the maturing process that will keep the tuber from degrading during storage. This all seems like an easy task but in the Skagit Valley skin set can take several weeks after the plants have died.
A few things can be done early in the plant development to help the maturing process:
1. Do not apply nitrate forms of nitrogen early in the plant’s development. This has a negative effect on the plant by pushing top growth and reducing root development.
2. Get as much calcium, boron, silica, and magnesium into the plant as possible. Start early and go long! These elements will enhance cell wall strength, reduce stress, and increase photosynthesis all of which are critical to keep plant top growth in check.
3. If at all possible, use a water surfactant pre-plant and during the growing season to move both irrigation and rain more efficiently. We have been using a product called Integrate 80 with a great deal of success. It will move water both vertically and horizontally creating a better water distribution path.
These are a few ideas that you can try to help your potatoes achieve a stress-free crop. If you follow through with these three ideas and use the finishing program, also posted, I’m confident you will be satisfied with the end results.