Wed | Nov 30, 2022

Growing Irish potato smartly

Published:Thursday | September 29, 2022 | 12:09 AM
Locksley Waite (left), national coordinator for the Irish Potato and Onion programme, explains the method of planting onions and Irish potatos to (from second left): Robert Montague, member of parliament, St Mary Western; Kerensia Morrison, member of parli
Locksley Waite (left), national coordinator for the Irish Potato and Onion programme, explains the method of planting onions and Irish potatos to (from second left): Robert Montague, member of parliament, St Mary Western; Kerensia Morrison, member of parliament, St Catherine North Eastern; Pearnel Charles Jr, minister of agriculture and fisheries; and Winston Simpson, chief executive officer (acting), Rural Agricultural Development Authority. The occasion was the National Irish Potato and Onion programme launch at the Guy’s Hill Town Hall in St Catherine on August 31.

Irish potato is one of the main staples in the Jamaican diet and continues to be a priority crop for the agricultural and gastronomy sectors.

Irish potatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium and vitamin C.

In an effort to support the sustainability of Irish potato production in Jamaica, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has a dedicated budgetary allocation under the National Production Incentive Programme for the procurement and provision of clean planting materials and agri chemicals at a value of $150m for the National Irish Potato Programme for the financial year 2022-2023.

This programme is a part of the Government’s overall strategy to enhance Jamaica’s food and nutrition security, with the aim of reducing imports, becoming self-sufficient, and sustaining the socio-economic livelihood of farmers and farm families.

The market demand for table Irish potato is 17,000 tonnes per annum which equates to 1,200 hectares of potato production, with the consideration that farmers attain a yield of 16 metric tonnes per hectare.

In delivering the main address at the official launch of the National Irish Potato and Onion Programme, Pearnel Charles, minister of agriculture and fisheries, mentioned that “this programmes is a clear demonstration of the ministry’s Grow Smart Eat Smart Initiative. One of the key programme focus is on precision agriculture as a more holistic way to attain better yields and sustained production and productivity”.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) are promoting an advisory guide to increase the productivity of farmers by growing smartly.

HOW TO GROW IRISH POTATO SMARTLY

The following factors should be considered before planting Irish potatoes the smart way:

The single most important consideration for Irish potato production is climate. It is a cool-season crop, growing best at temperatures 16-27ºc, with its best yields obtained when an average temperature of 20ºc maintained during the growing period.

• Avoid areas shaded by trees

• Choose areas that are flat or gently sloping and avoid areas that are prone to flooding and waterlogging.

• Know the cropping history and what your neighbour is planting – Irish potatoes must not be grown in areas where tomatoes, peppers, tobacco and other members of the solanaceae family have been grown in the last three years.

Irish potato can be cultivated in a wide range of soil types, provided the soil is sufficiently retentive of moisture and friable enough for good root and tuber development. Soils with pH between 5 and 7 and high in organic matter are best suited. A soil test is needed.

Water quality which is low in salinity is required for optimal production. In addition for farmers using irrigation, Irish potato requires 4000-6000 gallons of water per acre.

Ensure that there is a market for the amount of Irish potato that is intended to be produced. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has a structured marketing programme which involves primary buyers – Potato and Onion Producer Association.

New farmers are urged to firstly register with RADA at a parish office closest to their farm. For technical support to improve production and productivity, all farmers are urged to contact their agricultural extension officer who will guide the process.

The intention for this year’s Irish potato season is to not only meet national demand but to also export to other countries within the region. Let us make all efforts to grow Irish potato the smart way.