Potato Production

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Report number: HLA-6028, Affiliation: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
Cite this publication
Potato is a cool-season crop and is grown through the spring months and harvested in early summer in Oklahoma. Fall potato production usually results in poor plant stands and low production due to high soil temperatures at planting and during early crop development. Potatoes grow best in fertile, well-drained, sandy loam soils. Planting on poorly drained soils usually results in a poor plant stand due to seed piece decay and poor-quality potatoes at harvest. Soils susceptible to wind erosion or have poor water-holding capacity should be avoided. A good potato yield in Oklahoma is 200 to 250 hundred weight per acre. High temperatures or insufficient moisture in the late spring and early summer, while the potato tubers are forming reduces yield. With good management and weather conditions, yields of 300 hundred weight per acre are possible.
Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources • Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets
are also available on our website at:
Lynn Brandenberger
Extension Vegetable Crops
James Shrefler
Area Extension Horticulturist
Eric Rebek
Extension Entomologist
John Damicone
Extension Plant Pathology
Production Requirements
Potato is a cool-season crop and is grown through the
spring months and harvested in early summer in Oklahoma.
Fall potato production usually results in poor plant stands and
low production due to high soil temperatures at planting and
during early crop development. Potatoes grow best in fertile,
well-drained, sandy loam soils. Planting on poorly drained
soils usually results in a poor plant stand due to seed piece
decay and poor-quality potatoes at harvest. Soils susceptible
to wind erosion or have poor water-holding capacity should
be avoided. A good potato yield in Oklahoma is 200 to 250
hundred weight per acre. High temperatures or insufficient
moisture in the late spring and early summer, while the potato
tubers are forming reduces yield. With good management and
weather conditions, yields of 300 hundred weight per acre are
Select the potato variety best suited to your conditions and
market (Table 1). It is also good to try new varieties in on-farm
trials. Successful varieties can then be introduced to custom-
ers for input on making decisions for future varieties. Buyers
contracting potato production for chipping will designate the
variety to be grown. Potato varieties to consider are also given
in Extension Fact Sheet HLA-6035 “Commercial Vegetable
Varieties for Oklahoma” available on-line at: http://dasnr22.
Soil pH and Fertilizer
Potatoes grow well with a wide variety of soils, and soil
pH can be as low as 5.0, with best production between 5.5
and 6.8. Potatoes are less susceptible to scab when soil pH is
between 5.0 and 5.5. If pH is too low, apply dolomitic limestone.
Based on OSU soil test results, amounts of P
and K
O (potassium) are recommended (Table 2). Fertility
recommendations based on your soil test results for specific
vegetable crops can also be found on-line by going to www.
soiltesting.okstate.edu. Other fertility recommendations are
available in Extension Fact Sheet HLA-6036 “Soil Test Inter-
pretations for Vegetable Crops.
Potato Production
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
Table 1. Potato varieties for Oklahoma.
Variety Notes
Norland “Red” Round medium long with smooth red skin, widely adapted and early maturing.
Red LaSoda Round red for main season production with high yield potential, some potential disease problems.
Russet Norkotah Long russet that is early to medium in maturity.
Superior Round white for early fresh market use, some disease resistance.
Websites for further information on potato varieties:
Table 2. Phosphorous and potassium requirements for
Phosphorous Requirements (lbs P
When test shows 0 10 20 40 >65
Add lbs. P
120 100 80 45 0
Potassium Requirements (lbs K
When test shows 0 75 125 200 >250
Add lbs. K
O 300 250 200 100 0
Apply 55 Ibs/A N along with recommended P
and K
by either broadcast preplant incorporated or one half broadcast
and one half with the planter in bands placed 3 inches to 4
inches to each side and 1 inch to 2 inches below the seed
piece. Top dress or irrigate additional N when tubers begin
to form. Two top dress applications of nitrogen at 75 lbs. per
acre, then 70 Ibs. per acre each may be needed. Too much
nitrogen can be detrimental and decrease tuber quality, grade,
yield and slow down maturity. Soils having a high amount of
nitrate-N from previous fertilization, green-manure crops or
livestock manure will require less N fertilizer. Potassium sulfate
is preferred to potassium chloride as the potassium source
since skin color and specific gravity may be adversely affected
by potassium chloride.
Soil Preparation
Good water penetration and aeration are musts for
proper growth and tuber formation. Excessive tillage and land
preparation cause compaction and should be avoided. To be
effective, the soil should be plowed below any compacted
layer within the normal root zone, then disk harrowed before
planting. Spike-tooth harrowing to break up clods and level
the soil may be needed just prior to planting.
Seed and Planting
Use only certified seed tubers. Potato production costs
are too great to risk using non-certified seed. Certified seed
of good quality grown in the northern U.S. normally produces
the largest yields, the highest quality tubers and the fewest
disease problems. Pieces of large seed tubers are used for
planting. Small whole tubers can be used with equal results.
Seed pieces should be 1
ounces to 2 ounces in size. Using
smaller seed pieces usually results in lower yields. Cut seed
pieces can be suberized (healed over) before planting, but
planting fresh cut seed is a normal practice, since growers
usually lack the time and space to store large quantities of cut
seed before planting. Treatment of seed pieces with fungicides
may not always be necessary, as research has shown that
such applications are likely to increase yield only when the
cut seed pieces must be stored three or more days prior to
planting. Seed required to plant an acre depends upon seed
piece size and seed spacing (Table 3). Distance between rows
is commonly 36 inches.
Planting should begin in early March in central Oklaho-
ma and mid-March in northern Oklahoma to promote early
crop development and avoid extreme summer temperatures.
There are several types of planters available that place the
seed pieces in the soil and apply fertilizer and systemic in-
secticides in one operation. Seed depth should be about 4
inches below the top of the planted bed. Soil is ridged over
the row by throwing soil to the plants during early cultivation,
so about 6 inches of soil cover the seed piece when tuber
formation occurs. Depth for hilling differs among varieties.
Potatoes develop larger and more extensive root systems
in response to proper cultivation. Loose, friable soil improves
tuber set and development of smooth, well-shaped and
even-colored potatoes. Cultivation may be necessary to control
weeds, keep soil hilled-up, and aid water penetration and soil
aeration. Cultivate only when needed. Deep cultivation should
be avoided since many roots are damaged. Extra cultivations
are expensive, increase soil compaction and reduce yield.
Cultivation should be completed by the time plants reach full
Weed Control
Weeds must be controlled in potato fields, since they
compete with the crop for water, nutrients and light, and are
hosts for insects and diseases. Weed control can include
systems that utilize cultivation only, herbicides or a combina-
tion of cultivation and herbicides. An effective weed control
program takes into account problem weed species in the
field. Fields containing perennial weeds should be avoided.
Herbicide selection will involve becoming familiar with labeled
herbicides for potato, understanding field weed pressure and
what weed species the potential herbicide will need to control.
In addition, growers should understand how the herbicide will
be applied (i.e., pre-plant incorporated (PPI), preemergence
following planting (PRE), postemergence (POST), and after
crop emergence at drag-off or as a lay-by application). As
with all pesticide applications, make certain to read and
follow label instructions to ensure effectiveness, crop health
and applicator safety. Various herbicides can be applied by
ground rig or through the sprinkler irrigation system. For her-
bicide recommendations consult the most recent edition of
OSU Extension Agents’ Handbook of Insect, Plant Disease,
and Weed Control (E-832).
Soil moisture is probably the most important factor de-
termining potato yield and quality. Twenty or more inches of
water is required to produce a potato crop in central Oklahoma.
When irrigation is practiced to supplement rainfall, it should
be applied in frequent, but light amounts. Secondary growth
and growth cracks occur when irrigation or rainfall occurs
after moisture stress. Potato can be successfully grown using
several types of irrigation including overhead sprinkler, furrow
and drip irrigation systems. The soil should be kept uniformly
moist until tubers have reached full size. Considerations for
irrigation management decisions include: the effective rooting
depth of potatoes is 2 feet; soil should not be allowed to dry
below 65 percent of field capacity; moisture levels above field
capacity will seriously affect yield and quality of potato. On
extremely sandy soils, it is nearly impossible to prevent the
soil from drying below 65 percent of field capacity, due to the
low water-holding capacity of sandy soil.
Potatoes should never be planted in fields that have been
in sod or grass the previous year. By avoiding this situation,
Table 3. Seed potatoes needed per acre.
Spacing for seed pieces Average seed piece weight
for 36 inch row centers 1 ½ oz 1 ¾ oz 2 oz
(Hundred weight
needed per acre)
8 inches between seed pieces 20.4 23.8 27.2
10 inches between seed pieces 16.3 19.0 21.8
12 inches between seed pieces 13.5 15.8 18.1
one greatly decreases the chance of having wireworm and
white grub problems. If potatoes are planted in soil that was
in sod the year before, a soil insecticide should be used to
prevent damage to the tubers from these insects.
Once emerged, potatoes are susceptible to cutworms,
flea beetles, and leafhoppers. Flea beetles and leafhoppers
generally are not major problems in Oklahoma. Cutworms
are sporadic problems and can be severe in certain years.
Treatment for cutworms is usually performed at planting or
just after emergence.
Colorado potato beetle is the major insect pest of potatoes.
Adults overwinter in the soil and emerge about the same time
the potatoes are emerging. They usually appear in mid-April
and feed on the young foliage. Eggs are deposited on the lower
third of the plant on the underside of leaves. Larvae appear in
mid-May and can cause extensive defoliation. Larvae are more
easily controlled when they are small, and they also cause
the least damage at this young stage. Thus, controls should
be timed to coincide with the presence of small larvae.
Colorado potato beetles can be controlled with systemic
soil insecticides or with foliar sprays. Crop rotation also aids
in reducing their numbers. Potato fields planted after non-host
Figure 2. Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). From left to right: eggs, larva and adult. Photos courtesy
Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org
Figure 4. Potato Aphid (Macrosiphum euphorbiae). Pho-
to courtesy Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,
Figure 1. Scarabs or Scarab Beetles. Photo courtesy Alton
N. Sparks, Jr., University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Figure 3. Click beetle. Photo courtesy Frank Peairs, Colorado
State University, Bugwood.org
Figure 5. Variegated cutworm (Peridroma saucia). Photo
courtesy Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University, Bugwood.org.
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with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in
any of its policies, practices, or procedures. This includes but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Director of Cooperative Exten-
sion Service, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma. This publication is printed and issued by Oklahoma State University as authorized by the Vice President, Dean, and
Director of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and has been prepared and distributed at a cost of 20 cents per copy. 0914 GH.
Table 4. Potato variety type and disease tolerance, resistance, and susceptibility.
Fusarium seed
Variety Type/skin piece decay Early blight Verticillium wilt Common scab Blackleg
Red LaSoda Round/red Mod. Resistant Mod. Resistant Susceptible Susceptible Susceptible
Red Norland Round/red Susceptible Susceptible Susceptible Tolerance Susceptible
Superior Round/white NA Susceptible Susceptible Resistant NA
Russet Norkotah Long/russet Susceptible Susceptible Susceptible Mod. Resistant Susceptible
crops (peanuts, wheat, sorghum, etc.) have fewer beetle
problems than fields planted to potatoes the previous year(s).
Defoliation by Colorado potato beetles affects potato yields
most when the tubers are sizing. Early and late defoliation
usually does not decrease yields enough to warrant treatments.
Late defoliation after tuber sizing can be beneficial because
beetle feeding may assist in killing the vines.
Other potato insects include aphids, which transmit vi-
ruses and can also stress the plants by sucking plant juices.
Blister beetles can cause defoliation as they move en masse
across the field; however, they are seldom plentiful enough
to warrant treatment.
For specific insect control measures, see the latest edi-
tion of the OSU Extension Agents’ Handbook of Insect, Plant
Disease, and Weed Control (E-832) or Commercial Vegetable
Insect, Disease, and Weed Control (E-827).
A very common fungal disease of the foliage is early blight
(Alternaria). Fusarium and Verticillium wilts are also caused
by fungi. Blackleg, a bacterial disease, is characterized by a
blackening of stems and a yellowing and curling of leaves.
Tubers of the potato are also subject to attack by a variety
of pathogens. Various Fusarium species and the blackleg
bacterium cause tuber rots. Rhizoctonia solani forms black
sclerotia on the surface of tubers, which gave rise to the name
black scurf for this particular disease. Another fungal disease
of the tuber surface is common scab (Streptomyces).
Root-knot nematodes form irregular bumps on the tu-
bers. The potato plant is also susceptible to a variety of virus
diseases such as potato leaf roll, rugose mosaic and purple
top. A three- to four-year rotation helps avoid certain disease
problems. Non-parasitic diseases in Oklahoma potatoes are
represented by sunscald, sunburn and tipburn.
Descriptions and control measures for the above diseases
are available in Extension Fact Sheet EPP-7635 “Irish Potato
Diseases: Prevention and Control. For specific disease con-
trol measures see the latest edition of the Extension Agents’
Handbook (E-832).
Harvesting, Handling and Marketing
Digging potatoes begins in late June and continues to
the end of July. For the highest quality table stock potatoes,
the tubers should be fully matured before digging. Vines may
need to be killed by vine beaters or chemicals to promote
good skin set. However, since potatoes are edible at any time,
the question of when to dig must be decided by the grower.
Considerations include price, demand, market conditions and
expected yields. Early potatoes are sometimes dug before
optimum maturity to take advantage of certain limited market
demands and high prices. Processors may require a test for
reducing sugars be made to determine if tubers are in the
acceptable range for chipping into light-colored chips.
Potato harvesting is almost fully mechanized. The
harvest machinery digs and loads the potatoes on trucks
for transport to a shed where tubers are washed, graded
and sized for bulk marketing or packed in bags or boxes.
Due to high temperature conditions during harvest, speed
is very important in handling the potato crop from digging
to loading for shipment. Tubers bruise easily during harvest
at temperatures above 85 F and below 50 F. Soil condition,
tuber condition and harvester operation are important factors
influencing bruising. Besides bruising, other common market
defects are rots, cracks, skinning, enlarged lenticels, heat
sprouts, greening and numerous diseases.
Summer-harvested potatoes are not stored or held any
longer than necessary before marketing. The best tempera-
ture for holding potatoes is 40 F to 42 F. Oklahoma potatoes
are usually sold on the open market at prevailing prices.
Chipping potatoes are normally sold at contract prices and
may be graded or ungraded. “B” size and creamer potatoes
are usually sold to processors for canning.
Production Handbook
Potato Association of America Handbook titled “Commer-
cial Potato Production in North America” is available at: http://
ductionHandbook_Final_000.pdf. This PDF file is available
for free and was revised in 2010.
Original fact sheet was developed by Warren Roberts and Bob Cartwright at Oklahoma State University.
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