Specialty Potato Trial
PROJECT LEADER(S): Jeffery K. Vance
LOCATION: Mitchell County
This on-farm trial allowed farmers in Mitchell County to evaluate the potential of raising specialty potatoes as an alternative crop. There is potential to expand the production of potatoes in Mitchell County to around $2500 bushel. The specialty varieties bring a higher profit margin, but farmers will need to learn new marketing techniques to insure that this is a successful crop.
The Mitchell County Specialty Potato project was designed to compare five specialty potato varieties and their production capabilities in Mitchell County. We were only able to get four varieties for the trial. The varieties that were evaluated included Dark Red Norland, Yukon Gold, All Red and All Blue. The potatoes were harvested beginning in July and harvested through the fall.
The potatoes were ordered from the Maine Potato Growers Association and received through Southern States. Each variety was planted in 130 ft rows and was replicated on a ½ acre plot. The potatoes were planted on April 22, 2004. The grower wanted to use organic methods to produce the potatoes so no herbicides were applied. Following planting an organic fertilizer was applied and then during the summer the potatoes were treated with approved organic pesticides for Colorado Potato Beetle. The materials used included a Bt and a Spinosad. Copper was used for late blight. This material did not give complete control with all the late blight pressure due to the rainy season we had, so we did have a decrease in plant stand due to late blight infection.
Even with the plants being damaged from late blight we had a good harvest from the four varieties. The All Blues were the lowest yielders. These potatoes are small and oblong. The variety just doesn’t get very large so yields are not expected to be very high. The Yukon Gold and Dark Red Norland were both high yielding. The yield results calculated to a per acre yield are:
Yukon Gold – 12,000 lbs.
Dark Red Norland – 12,000 lbs.
All Red – 10,000 lbs.
All blue – 4000 lbs.
The potato varieties began maturing in late July and so the grower began to dig potatoes then to sell at the local farmers markets. All varieties sold well. Best sales were with the Dark Red Norland and Yukon Gold. These varieties go along with traditional potato production in the area. Potatoes were also marketed to a couple of restaurants and to the Penland School of Crafts cafeteria.
Colorado potato beetles were controlled with the two pesticides that were used. Late blight was not controlled and some competition from weeds late in the year hurt our production yields.
Potato production in Mitchell County does have a feasible future. I feel this is an alternative/specialty crop that many farmers could produce. Growing the potatoes organically is also a good opportunity. New materials worked well on CPB, but if the late blight fungus attacks the plant early then it could reduce potato yields to an unprofitable level. Growing the specialty potatoes will also force growers to work harder at reaching non-traditional markets if they are going to sell their entire crop. The potential for this crop looks good.