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World’s staple food: Potatoes

By Sereba Agiobu-Kemmer
02 July 2022   |   2:44 am
Apart from yam, there are two other major food crops in Nigeria — potatoes. Irish potato (solanum tuberosum) and sweet potatoes (ipomoea batatas).

Flowering potato vine

Apart from yam, there are two other major food crops in Nigeria — potatoes. Irish potato (solanum tuberosum) and sweet potatoes (ipomoea batatas).

Types of potatoes and how to select the best variety:
Although the potato cultivated worldwide belongs to just one botanical species, solanum tuberosum, the tubers come in thousands of varieties.

The varieties have great differences in size, shape, colour, texture, cooking characteristics and taste.

You need to decide on the potato variety you want to plant.

There are different types to choose from. However, you have to consider some of these factors;

Factors to consider when choosing potato variety for cultivation: You must consider the disease resistance of the variety

The time it takes to reach maturity. You should also consider the level of productivity or yield of the potato

Check what is the overall quality of the potato in production.

Selecting the best potato variety for cultivation

As you already know, there are different varieties of seed potatoes available in Nigeria.
Some are local and while others come from other countries

Some of the local varieties include: -RC767-2; RC7716-3; RC7716-4 and RC777-3

Bloom of Irish potato

Solanum tuberosum common name Irish potatoes plants growing in bags.

Some varieties that come in through importation which are high yielding and highly resistant to diseases include -Nicola; Bertita; Diamant; Kondor; Famosa; Br63-18 and Marabel.

How To Grow Organic Potatoes
If you’re accustomed to purchasing your potatoes (solanum tuberosum) from the grocery store, chances are you’ve only tasted a few common varieties.

This starchy, round vegetable is a popular addition to meals in many countries, as it is easy to grow and can be prepared in a large variety of recipes. When you grow your own, you can also discover a whole world of flavours, colours, shapes, and sizes you may not be familiar with yet.

With hundreds of potato varieties readily available for home gardeners to choose from, growing organic potatoes can help spruce up the ingredients in your kitchen with little effort compared to many other home-grown foods.

It takes about three to four months for potato plants to reach maturity, depending on the specific variety. Some small potatoes can be harvested in just under two months.

Potatoes have long been a staple ingredient of diets around the world, as they contain important nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B6.1 

Like other plants in the nightshade (Solanum) family, potatoes contain glycoalkaloids that can become toxic to humans and pets when the plant is no longer fresh. So, be sure to eat this vegetable while it’s ripe. The leaves, stems, and skin have the highest concentration, meaning a spoiled potato with green skin is likely unsafe to eat.2
Common Name Potato, Irish potato
Botanical Name Solanum tuberosum
Family Nightshade (Solanum)
Plant Type  Annual, Vegetable 
Size  1.5-3 ft. tall, 1.5-3 ft. wide 
Sun Exposure  Full sun 
Soil Type  Loamy 
Soil pH  Acidic (5.0 to 6.0)  
Toxicity  Leaves, vines, green skin are toxic

Benefits Of Potato Cultivation
Potato cultivation is a good form of employment if done at the right scale.

It is great food for many homes around the world. Many families fry, boil, or roast potatoes for consumption.
Potatoes can serve as a major source of foreign exchange when exported to other countries.

There are amazing benefits of potatoes for skin, hair, and health. Potato juice is used to treat some ailments and remove warts. Potatoes are for shining your silverware example cutlery. You can also use potatoes to clean windows and remove stains. It helps to relieve arthritis, infections, and boils. Potato is good for absorbing excess salt from a cooking pot. Art students use potato for creating uniform patterns for stamp designs. You can grow potatoes in almost any types of soil, except saline and alkaline soils. Naturally, loamy and sandy loam soils that are rich in organic matter, are the most suitable soils for growing potatoes. This is because the soils are loose and they offer the least resistance to enlargement of the tubers.

Also, make sure the soil has good drainage and proper aeration. You should plant your potato in slightly acidic soil with a PH range of 5.2 – 6.4.

Why Irish Potato Production Remains Low In Nigeria
In recent years, Irish Potato has witnessed a growing demand. This comes mainly from consumers who have come to realize its health benefits. Not only that, new ways of preparing this tuber crop have made it more attractive.

Irish Potatoes are consumed in a variety of ways. Some of these include fried chips, porridge, baked, mashed potatoes, as well as roasted potato among others. But despite the benefits and potential of this crop, the country’s production level is still minimal.

It is unfortunate that despite the country’s enormous land surface used for crop production, Nigeria ranks fourth among the continent’s leading Irish potato-producing countries.

Despite the progress made in potato development in Nigeria, there are still some constraints, which limit its production, processing and marketing. These include the inadequate supply of good quality seeds, inadequate storage facilities, poor diseases, and pests’ management, which affects the yield, and value addition to the potato crop. 

There is a huge deficit in the supply of the produce, he said there is a need for government to support farmers, not only to meet domestic demands but also to serve as a foreign exchange earner for the country.
“We can only maximise the potential of this crop when people begin to cultivate the crop in large quantity. High-profit turnover is an incentive you do not want to ignore

How to Grow Potatoes in Pots
If you don’t have the space in your garden, you can easily grow potatoes in containers. Choose a tall option—clean garbage can, barrel, five-gallon bucket, or planting bag specified for potatoes—and start with six inches of soil. Like growing potatoes in the ground, it’s important to ensure the tubers don’t reach sunlight. Spread seed potatoes across the first layer of soil before covering them up with additional layers of soil, peat moss, or a combination of both (thanks to its acidic nature, peat moss helps prevent potato scab). Every time the foliage grows between four and six inches, add another layer. Harvest the potatoes once the plants flower.

Harvesting Potatoes
One plant will typically yield between two and 10 pounds of potatoes. Once your plant has reached about one foot in height or 50 days since planting, it’s safe to harvest a few small potatoes. New potatoes are small, and they can be harvested in larger numbers at any time during the season once you see blooms on the plant. After the foliage above ground dies, it’s safe to harvest the entirety of your potatoes.

If you are growing potatoes to store, let the foliage turn brown. Cut it back, then leave the potatoes in the ground for a few more weeks.

You can save seed potatoes from your garden from year to year. Simply store healthy tubers in a cool, dry spot. Do not wash before storing. Let the potatoes sit out for a few days after harvesting so that any soil clinging to the tubers dries thoroughly. The benefit of storing seed potatoes is that over time, you’ll end up with a strain of potatoes that is particularly suited to conditions in your garden

Pruning is not necessary for potato plants, but some gardeners use various methods of pruning to change the outcome of each potato. To grow your potatoes larger, allow the stalks to grow fully and flower, as the foliage above ground feeds the potato below by soaking in sunlight and nutrients. For smaller potatoes, trim the stem just below the flowers. Do a size test by harvesting one potato. Once they’ve reached your desired size, cut the remaining length of the stalk to keep them from growing further.

Propagating Potatoes
Since the seed potatoes themselves are planted, you’ll have to propagate potatoes from an existing plant or buy seed potatoes intended for gardening to begin. Once you’ve harvested the first round of new potatoes from your plant, you can plant them whole or cut them into smaller pieces to grow new plants.
Ensure that each piece retains at least a few eyes (up to three). It’s helpful to leave cut pieces out for a few days to allow the sides to callus over—this prevents rotting if the soil is cold or retains too much moisture.

Potting and Repotting Potatoes
Many gardeners transplant their potatoes into new containers when the plants are becoming too crowded. To repot your potatoes, it’s important to first determine the timing:
Repotting is best done before the roots have matured in the soil, so plan to move these plants while the foliage is young. If you need to repot an established potato plant, it’s helpful to trim back some of the leaves (carefully ensuring to leave any budding flowers intact) to lessen the weight on the stalk.

Can You Grow Potatoes In Bags?
If you’ve got lots of room in the garden or at an allotment, you can of course grow potatoes in rows and get a really big crop, but don’t be put off if you don’t have a lot of space.  You can grow potatoes in pots and bags very successfully, and using this method is perfect for small gardens or your first efforts at grow your own.  Container grown potatoes taste just as good as those grown in the ground too.

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