Irish potato is a temperate crop that grows well on low temperature of 15-20C, it requires high altitude that’s why South Africa grow them on large commercial basis. In Nigeria Plateau State are the major producers of irish potato. Other places with high altitudes are; Mambilla Plateau, Taraba State, Obudu, Cross River State. Irish potato farming can grow well during harmattan when the North is generating cold. Places like; Zaria, Kaduna State, Borno and some part of Nsukka in Enugu State. Irish is a staple food classified under vegetable. And it’s highly demanded all over the globe, Nigeria not exceptional.
Nigeria is the 8th producers of irish potato in Africa producing about 843,000 tonnes; yet consumes more than 1 million tonnes yearly. Most irish potato used in fast food joints such as Mr. Biggs and the rest are imported from South Africa in frozen form. It is peeled, sliced and frozen. That is why we are encouraging more entrepreneurs to invest in large-scale commercial Irish potato farming. To meet up with local demand and for export.
It is an underground stem known as tuber crop and not a root. Irish potato contains 2% protein and 18% starch. Grows well when the days are warm and the night cold. Irish potato can be planted in sacks and containers especially for those who are in Urban areas. This is because they can maximize little space for great results. Sack bag irish potato farming started in Israel a long time ago. it can yield 3 times more than the traditional method.
To start irish potato farming you have to buy quality seed from a recognized seed company. There are two new potato seed processing companies around Plateau one of them is Vicam Pro. Plant seed potato in an open environment to gain access to enough sunlight. It can grow up to 1.2m high.
For irish potato farming plough the land very well to get them loosen, heavy soil will make the tubers tough and small. It can grow in a wide variety of soil. But a well-drained sandy loam rich in organic matter is ideal. It requires partially acidic PH of 5.5-6.5. Use a fallow land that has not be used for less than 2 years in order to prevent the activities of pest and diseases. Prepare furrow of 15cm, 75cm apart. It helps in drainage and will give the plant sufficient space to establish. At the same time minimizing competition for nutrients.
Cultivation should be done during the early rains; from March-April. Potato is cultivated from the parent tuber that has sprouting bud on it.. Prepare the seed potato by cutting into smaller sizes about 30-35cm or 35-40cm in size. If the seed is too small it will produce weak plant use mature potato about 1 and ½:inches in diameter Place the seed potato in a warm place between 60-70°F a week to planting.
They are ready for planting when the sprout is about ¼ – ½ long. Cut the potato into 2 parts with each having 2 buds. Put the cut potato in a place that has room temperature for 2-3days. Before planting rub or dust them in agricultural sulphur this will protect the exposed surface from fungi disease. Bury the seed potato in the furrow about 40cm deep, place the potato seed in the hole with the eyes pointing up. Cover it with sand, make it flat and water. The potato will germinate in 2 weeks by then sprouting will be very well noticeable.
5 weeks after planting heap sand around the potato stems. It will help the new potatoes grow out from the planted tubers. Frequently hill the plant so that the new tubers are not exposed to direct sunlight that can turn them green.
IRISH POTATO VARIETY
There are many varieties with different skin colours, we have; red flesh, white flesh and yellow flesh. The commonest ones are; the red and the white skin but the red variety stay longer than the white. That is why you should start irish potato farming with the ones that attracts market most.
Apply manure 2 weeks after germination because irish potato needs nutrient to form good tubers. You can use NPK of 8:11:18
Weeding should be manual except you can carefully use herbicides to tackle them. Too much water enlarges the pores on the tuber and make them rot quickly. Water only when necessary.
PEST/DISEASES IN IRISH POTATO FARMING
Pest and diseases starts their activities immediately after germination. Sucking pests such as white flies and aphids affects Irish potato seriously. Others are caterpillar, tuber moth and leaf miner. Potato blight is a fungus disease called Phytophthora infection that affects leaves and stem. Tackled it immediately you noticed their presence any delay will result in 100% damage within 5 days.
The affected part usually show soaked dark water lesion then after few days the potato plant will appear burnt as if fire was set on it. Always spray fungicide every week. Also apply preventive fungicide when there is high humidity or fluctuating temperature sers in.
Bacteria wilt causes extensive losses. Use herbicide such as touch down, Sevin an insecticide and neem oil Eelworm can live about 20-30 years. Plant disease and pest resistant variety. Practice rotational farming. Don’t follow potato farm with okra, pepper, egg-plant and tomatoes.
If you plant in April harvest will be in August, potato matures in about 100 days depending on the variety some can be less or more. When matured the leaves will turn yellow while the foliage will die-back. Allow the potato to stay for 2-3 weeks before harvesting. So that their skin can become tough and smooth. Use hand fork, bare hands or spade to lift them from the soil. Care must be taken not to create wound on the tubers because they don’t store well. Pull the tubers from the vine and shake sand away. Yield is 50 tonnes per hectare
Don’t wash before storing because it will encourage deterioration of quality during storage. Keep the potatoes in a dry place to cure for 2 weeks, select shrivelled and soft ones out. Store in cold storage facility of 30°C it can stay for about a year in this condition.
Supply to supermarkets, big malls, market traders, potato chips producers, bakers who mash it for baking etc. You can frozen them and supply to fast food joints.
WHY YOU SHOULD START IRISH POTATO FARMING
- It is very easy and cheap to plant
- Irish potato farming is very profitable, it sales higher than sweet potato and yam
- The demand for it is increasing by the day.
- It doesn’t require special qualification, anybody can do it.
HEALTH BENEFIT OF IRISH POTATO
It doesn’t contain cholesterol nor fat but contains low calories
Rich in Vitamin C, B6, Potassium, iron and fibre. The fibre helps blood cholesterol level. The potassium content helps in lowering blood pressure. Maintains brain and nervous health system because of Vitamin B6.
IRISH POTATO SACK FARMING
Mix sand and farmyard manure in th ratio of 1:1. You have to irrigate it more because the moisture retaining capacity of the natural ground cannot be compared to that of sack. But a good compost soil will increase moisture holding capacity. A sack is expected to yield 20kg. 520 sacks if well-managed will yield about 10 tonnes. You can also use container but you will have to support the plant with sticks.
Irish potato farming is more economical than sweet potato and yam in terms of export. Locally, if a bag of sweet potato cost #8,000, irish will cost double or more.