Don’t overlook the importance of calcium for potato quality

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Are your potatoes getting enough calcium? Natalie Wood, Country Arable Agronomist at Yara, explains that this crucial nutrient plays a vital role in ensuring quality parameters: “Calcium, along with other nutrients, can make the difference between selling the crop pre-pack or as ware. The cost of application is compensated for by the price differential.”

Natalie took the time to answer some questions on the importance of calcium and how to most effectively apply it in order to maximise quality.

Q: What role does calcium play?

“Calcium has multiple supporting functions. Potatoes need calcium to strengthen their tuber skin, for example. This not only results in a better skin finish but improves resistance against many diseases, including black scurf, silver scurf and both common and powdery scab.”

“Deficiency in calcium can also cause internal rust spot, discolouration and hollow tubers, so ensuring availability is crucial.”

Q: When should calcium be applied?

“Applying calcium at tuber initiation is important so that the developing tuber can be flushed with soluble calcium.”

Q: Does the source of calcium matter?

Natalie Wood

“Yes, getting the source right is also key. Many incorrectly believe that liming on its own will be able to provide enough calcium for the crop. However, that’s usually not the case; many liming materials contain calcium carbonate. This is not highly water-soluble, meaning the calcium is not freely available to the crop throughout the growing season.”

Q: What kind of product should we use?

“Choose a product that delivers what you need at high solubility levels. Lime, for example, is calcium carbonate and requires 66,000 litres of water to dissolve just 1kg. That’s a long time before the calcium becomes plant-available – it certainly won’t be during the season when it’s required. A product that only needs 1 litre of water to dissolve 1kg, however, would ensure availability for the plant during those crucial stages.”

Q: Any other comments?

“Calcium is a very important nutrient when growing potatoes. That said, it’s easy to underestimate how much of a difference it can make. To get the best results possible in your potato crop, use the right product at the right time to make sure calcium is available to support healthy growth.”

 

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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.