Our research made understandable: We have harvested the potatoes of our work
We achieved one of the major milestones of our SolACE project in the last two weeks as we managed to harvest our small plot potato experiments. We collected almost three tonnes of potatoes from the fields in sacks, which means we can now record the data and analyze it. As we have already reported, we tested various potato genotypes, microbial inoculums and crop rotation enriched with soybeans in the Organic Farming Section of the Soroksár Experimental and Educational Farm of the Szent István University. Our aim was to enhance the combined stress resistance of the plants. In the coming weeks, we will see how the methods we used increased the quantity and the quality of the yield under conditions with sub-optimal water and nutrient inputs.
After collecting the potatoes the first step is fractioning, which means that the tubers are sorted by size. In practice, the smallest potatoes will be put back into the soil as seed tubers, while medium and large-sized ones can be sold. Usually these three fractions – small, medium and large – are differentiated in Hungary, but in order to get more accurate research results, we came up with five size categories to use in the experiment, weighing each of them.
After sorting comes the analysis of the tubers and the soil during which we investigate the impact of the inoculums mixed into the soil in spring on the various harmful fungi and bacteria such as scab, potato pox, Fusarium, tuber phytophthora, and silver scurf. Did you know that phytophthora – more commonly known as potato late blight – is the most devastating fungal disease for potatoes even today? It appears every year causing a 10-20% decrease in yields, even if proper plant protection measures have been taken. If the mix of beneficial fungi and bacteria included in the inoculums works, they might be able to mitigate the negative impacts of such infections.
In the last phase of the analysis, we will measure the nitrogen and phosphorus content of the tubers and the soil to see how the spring fertilizers were used during the experiments, applying inoculums and preceding crops. This is important because soils cannot always provide enough nutrients to the plants. On the other hand, the tools of nutrient supply are based on finite resources. The situation with water is the same. This is why we have to investigate methods that allow plants to utilize water and nutrients more efficiently, helping them to adapt to climate change.
We will soon report on the first results of the experiment. Follow our website, and get first-hand news!