Potato Seed Piece Calcium can Influence Tuber Yield

in HortScience
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  • 1 Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison, Dept. of Horticulture, 1575 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706-1590

Pathogenic bacteria (Erwinia spp.) can have a significant impact on stand establishment and sprout health. These bacteria cause soft rot of the seed piece, which is common in wet spring conditions resulting in great economic loss. Recent studies have demonstrated that the incidence and severity of soft rot can be significantly reduced by increasing tuber calcium. We investigated the influence of seed piece calcium on tuber production. Field growing potato plants were treated with supplemental calcium during tuber bulking (calcium at 168 kg·ha–1 from calcium nitrate or N-Hib) to increase the seed tuber medullary calcium levels. All three cultivars (`Superior', `Atlantic', `Dark Red Norland') responded to supplemental calcium application with increases in mean calcium contents, even though soil tests showed high native calcium levels (1000 kg·ha–1). Seed tubers were sampled for calcium by removing a longitudinal slice from the center of each tuber and planting one of the resulting halves for seed piece decay evaluation and the other for yield evaluation. Calcium nitrate-treated seed tubers produced higher yields compared to ammonium nitrate and N-Hib in `Atlantic' in `Dark Red Norland'. This trend did not hold true for `Superior'. Our results suggest that a) it is possible to increase seed piece tuber calcium levels with supplemental calcium application even in soils testing high in calcium and b) improving the calcium concentration of the seed piece can increase tuber yield in some cultivars.

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