Our organic potatoes research in pictures: photo series and report from the last twelve months
Much of our spring and summer fieldwork was related to potatoes.
Despite the pandemic situation beginning in March, as well as weather difficulties, our staff, trainees, and assisting colleagues successfully set up these small plot and on-farm experiments, then harvested the potatoes for their work, so that content studies could begin in the autumn.
Led by our researchers Orsolya Papp and Dániel Ganszky, our SolACE project potato cultivation experiments are now in their third consecutive year. There are two main experiments within the project, the details of which you can read about in our previous article.
WHAT DO WE EXAMINE, AND HOW?
An important milestone for us was the first use of our small-scale seed drill in our research on nutrients, water scarcity, inoculation and pre-cropping in the Ecological Farming Department of the Experimental Plant and Training Farm of the Szent István University, which greatly helped in preparing the experiments.
After successful sowing, the phenological (developmental) and physiological (functional) status of the plants was recorded at several stages, while the necessary plant protection and agrotechnical tasks were also performed (e.g. mechanical weed and pest control, which means hoeing :), and the removal of potato beetles).
In addition to the traditional status surveys, we also took thermal camera recordings by drone. By analysing the thermal images, we were able to examine how each activity affected the temperature of the plants relative to their environment, which is related to the amount of evaporation and photosynthetic activity.
After harvesting was completed, the first things to be determined were the yield amount and the size of the tubers. This was followed by a starch examination and a check for pathogens.
While we were investigating the effects of inoculation and pre-cropping in this experiment, in 2020 we also examined the efficacy of two products which are commercially available, in collaboration with our on-farm partners. The two products were Esstence, an earthworm-humus-based, complex soil and plant conditioner, and the other was Water Guard, a water-retaining soil conditioner.
THE WORK WILL CONTINUE NEXT YEAR!
In connection with the on-farm experiments, we also held our usual annual evaluation workshop on 9 December, which was attended by the working farmers and product manufacturers participating in the experiment. We discussed our experiences from 2020, as well as our first impressions of the products, and had an active discussion about solutions for improving water management and providing more efficient irrigation systems. In next year’s on-farm potato experiments, we will continue our research on microbiological soil inoculation, and on increasing the water holding capacity of the soil, but we also expect to be able to study a more stress-tolerant genotype.
Our experiments on potatoes are carried out within the framework of our SolACE and MNVH projects, within which we also study new plant varieties and agrotechnical methods to ensure an adequate yield even when both water and nutrients are available in insufficient quantities. Results will be published in our research summaries after the experiments have been completed.