Building and maintaining soil health is essential to agricultural sustainability, long-term productivity, and economic viability. Soil health is defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living system that supports biological productivity, to maintain environmental quality, and to promote plant, animal, and human health.
Understanding how to maintain soil health is especially important, as agricultural production tends to degrade soil over time. The potential harm caused by soil degradation is particularly high for potato production systems, as a result of short rotations, intensive tillage, and lack of crop residues. Additionally, as tubers maintain direct contact with soil, changes in soil health can more immediately affect potato crops.
In the webcast "Basics of Soil Health in Potato Production," Robert Larkin discusses the issues that arise as a result of poor soil health, including increased erosion, reduced root growth, and soil compaction. Improved soil health can result in better potato growth, quality, and yield and reduce the risk of yield losses during periods of stress.
Larkin introduces soil management strategies and practices, including crop rotations, cover crops and green manures, and conservation tillage and draws on a 14-year crop management strategy study to show how these practices have major impacts. He concludes that potatoes thrive best under a 3-year rotation with reduced/conservation tillage. He recommends planting a disease-suppressive rotation crop prior to the potato crop, an alternative cash crop after the potato crop, and a cover crop such as winter rye or ryegrass. Larkin discusses crop rotation in additional detail in the webcast "Crop Rotation and Soil Health in Potato Production Systems."
This 16.5-minute webcast is part of the Focus on Potato series on the Plant Management Network (PMN). PMN is a cooperative, not-for-profit resource for the applied agricultural and horticultural sciences. Together with more than 80 partners, which include land-grant universities, scientific societies, and agribusinesses, PMN publishes quality, applied, and science-based information for practitioners.