Potato growers embrace aeroponic cultivation

Researchers from Cornell University in the United States have begun utilising revolutionary aeroponic technology in cultivating disease-free seed potatoes. Aeroponics is the process of growing plants suspended in the air, without the use of soil.

“Seed potatoes are a potato which is planted prior to commercial cropping for human consumption. From this ‘seed’ a plant bearing potatoes will grow. It is extremely important that seed potatoes are as free of plant diseases as possible before they are propagated,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Michael Bodnarcuk.

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 2,000 potato growers.

Aeroponic technology was initially developed in Peru as a speedy and cost-effective method of producing quality seed potatoes. The Cornell University project is taking place in New York State, where golden nematode disease has been wreaking havoc on the region’s potato crops for several decades.

By employing isolated aeroponic technology to remove seed cultivation from potentially contaminated soil, seed potatoes which are free from the disease can be grown with maximum efficiency, before being sold on to commercial growers.

“The technology may be a lofty concept to grasp, however, the implementation and construction of aeroponic growing operations are actually rather simple. All that’s required is a large, dark wooden box to simulate the effect of soil, and a mist dispersing pump to provide plants with their required nutrients.”

“Aeroponic seed growing operations run according to a process. Initially, the potato plant is grown in aeroponic growth chambers over a period of approximately two years. Once the seed potato has developed, it is screened for disease before being planted and propagated in soil. After a further two years, the seed potato can be sold to commercial growers with the assurance that it is free from most harmful pests and diseases,” said Mr Bodnarcuk.

This innovative international R&D project is explored in the inaugural seed potato special edition of AUSVEG publication, Potatoes Australia, to be distributed this week.

Also covered in the seed potato special edition of Potatoes Australia are features on seed potato treatment for commercial cropping, seed potato disease findings from the Australian Potato Research Program and a profile piece on young seed grower, Ben Warner from Lameroo in South Australia.

“AUSVEG is excited to release our first ever themed edition of Potatoes Australia and looks forward to continuing to promote the efforts of seed potato growers,” said Mr Bodnarcuk.

Posted 15 April 2014


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