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Nitrogen Management in Organic Potato Production

Lynch, D.H., M. Sharifi, A. Hammermeister, and D. Burton. 2012. Sustainable Potato Production: Global Case Studies

Abstract

There is increasing interest in organic potato production in Canada, within a context of continuing strong growth rates for organic products globally. Using data from on-farm and station based trials, key characteristics of organic potato production in the Atlantic Canada region, notably the use of extended rotations involving leguminous crop green manures combined with organic amendments, low intensity of nitrogen and residual soil mineral N (RSMN) post harvest, and enhanced soil quality and health, are shown as sustainable outcomes of these systems. Data presented confirm nitrogen as the primary factor limiting total and marketable yields. Without additional N supplementation but following legume green manures (GMr) of red clover, or hairy vetch, potato yields and N uptake are shown to range from 30 to 35 Mg ha-1 and 100-125 kg N ha-1, respectively, while RSMN remains low. Combining N supplementation (with composts or dehydrated manures) with GMr consistently increased total and marketable yield. The effect of N supply and GMr type on pest (wireworm, Colorado potato beetle) population dynamics is also examined. Finally, synchronizing N supply in these systems with crop demand remains challenging and the potential to use novel soil tests and plant bioassays to improve N management in organic production systems is also discussed.