Be Prepared

In-depth information on irrigation available

Published in the February 2014 Issue Published online: Feb 20, 2014 Phillip Nolte, UI seed potato pathologist
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With the focus of this month’s buyer’s guide on irrigation, I thought this might be a good time to showcase a couple of University of Idaho publications that provide in-depth, science-based guidelines on how to accomplish the vital task of getting your potato crop watered properly.

The first of these is “Potato Irrigation Management” (University of Idaho Bulletin BUL 789) by Brad King and Jeff Stark. This publication provides good basic information on crop water requirements at the various stages of potato development and how irrigation practices are adjusted at each of these stages. The publication goes on to describe the role played by soil moisture content and water-holding capacity on the development of the crop and outlines the effects of evapotranspiration on yield and quality.

This bulletin describes general irrigation principles with discussions on managing the various types of irrigation systems employed, whether it be one of the many types of sprinkler irrigation systems, drip irrigation systems or good old-fashioned furrow irrigation. The capabilities of each application type, including strengths and weakness, are discussed.

The publication also contains a large section dedicated to irrigation scheduling and concludes with a section on irrigation system management with information on how to optimize irrigation system efficiency. This publication provides a good starting place for someone new to the art and science of irrigation management or a good review for experienced irrigators who might be a little rusty on the basics.

With concerns about next season’s water supplies, the other publication that I’ll highlight may be even timelier. A publication entitled “Potato Production with Limited Water Supply” (University of Idaho CIS 1122) by Brad King, Jeff Stark and Steve Love discusses how to get the most from your potato crop during a season when water supplies are short. I’ll warn all of you beforehand that advanced planning is a vital part of managing a potato crop in a short water season.

This bulletin describes the effects of water stress on each of the various growth stages of the potato crop from seed piece sprouting and early vegetative growth, through tuberization and tuber bulking, as well as during tuber maturation. The publication also discusses the important topic of adjusting fertilizer applications when water supplies are short.

Other management decisions discussed in the publication include adjusting acreage according to anticipated water supplies, choosing the right fields or avoiding the wrong ones, and utilizing varieties that are better adapted to the seasonal water supply.

As stated above, many of these practices—variety choice, for instance—dictate that you must make some important decisions well in advance of planting. We don’t know what this winter or this coming season will bring in terms of water availability, but having some kind of plan in place long beforehand will help a great deal. Right now might be a good time to start formulating one if you haven’t already begun to do so.

These publications are available on the University of Idaho’s Idaho Center for Potato Research and Education website at Just click on “Publication Catalog” and follow the links.