Statistics say that potato growing areas in the country have decreased in the last ten years from 51 000 ha in 2000. up to 16,000 ha in 2021. annum. But exactly 2022. a slight increase in the total area of potato fields is observed annually. The reason could be the aggravation of the geopolitical situation, as well as the beginning of the economic crisis in Europe. Prices for edible potatoes are higher this year than last year, but the cheapest tubers grown abroad are also pouring into the market.
Latvian potato growers improved cultivation technologies in the period from 2000. the annual potato yield on average in the country exceeded 20 t/ha, in 2019. reaching 22.4 t/ha per year. The trend of crop growth continued until last year, when, due to unfavorable conditions for potato growth, the yield level was only 15.3 t/ha. This year, the harvest is probably slightly higher than last year, however, the harvest of potatoes in different regions of Latvia has been very different. In some regions, on the Vidzeme side, one could not complain about the harvest, but on the Latgale side, the potato contribution was catastrophically low in places.
Years of harvest
The last two summers have not been very favorable for potato growers, to some extent they were a test of endurance and susceptibility for them. The formation of a tuber crop in summer was hampered by rather long periods of high heat and no rain, which in places alternated with excessive precipitation. More about the blight of the weevils, potato fields were threatened by the Colorado potato beetle or Colorado potato beetle these summers. Not always the measures taken to contain them were effective enough. However, it was also possible to look for a solution in extreme conditions, as well as to see the perspective of how potato plantations could be protected in the future if excessive heat, drought or the spread of pests repeated again.
Growing use of potatoes for processing
Also in our country, as in other European countries, the consumption of potatoes in food as a whole decreases, while the proportion of potatoes used for processing increases. There are two potato processing companies in Latvia that produce potato starch and chips. Cooperation with processing enterprises is beneficial for potato growers, as it ensures a stable sales of the produced products. Of course, it is necessary to fulfill the requirements of the customer – the processing company, grow suitable potato varieties and use the appropriate technology.
Potato growing technologies require large investments, more field processing, spraying, but planting and harvesting are more labor-intensive, specific storage conditions are required, transportation expenses are also higher.
Production of potatoes for processing into starch
Is it really economically profitable to grow potatoes for processing?
The assessment of the situation for starch potato production in Integrated Farms was carried out on the basis of 2019.-2020. the situation in 2005-2005, when the conditions for growing potatoes were relatively favorable, the price hikes for raw materials and other production resources had not yet begun, there was still no shadow of pandemic restrictions and the threat of war.
Although Aloja Starkelsen may be considered to have specialised in the production of organic potato starch, the volume of conventional starch produced from potatoes grown on Integrated Farms is also significant. The yield of potatoes using mineral fertilizers and plant protection products (PPPs) is, of course, higher than in the organic farming system, where the use of chemically produced products is not allowed.
Although potato varieties do not differ too much in the amount of starch in tubers in both types of farming, however, the total starch yield per hectare is higher precisely in integrated fields.
Choosing a suitable variety
The first requirement for growing potatoes for processing into starch is to choose varieties with a large amount of starch in the tubers. Not only a large, but also a stable amount of starch in the changing growing conditions of different seasons is important. No less important factor is the ability of the variety to form high yields. As a rule, varieties with a relatively large amount of starch in tubers and good yields belong to the groups of medium-late and late varieties. But in the short summers of Latvia, varieties with a shorter growing season would be more suitable, and in order to make it easier to avoid damage to the grass rot, better resistance to the most destructive pathogen – the grass rot. Therefore, medium-late varieties with a shorter tuber formation period are recommended.
As we can see from experience, both Latvian and foreign breeders ‘ varieties with a sufficiently large amount of starch (about 20%) and good yield can be successfully grown in Latvia (see tab.). Especially pleased with the recently introduced in Latvia variety ‘Jogla’, which is really well suited to our growing conditions.
In the Integrated Field, potatoes must be grown using the appropriate cultivation technology. This means that soil treatment and also Plantation care work must be carried out so that the soil is sufficiently loose. A suitable and balanced fertilizer should be applied to the potato field. One of the most effective ways of fertilizing is the application of mineral fertilizers into the furrow at the same time as planting. However, in order to promote the accumulation of starch in the tubers, it would also be worth considering extra-root fertilization during vegetation.
During the growth of potatoes, measures should be taken to control pests, starting with weed control, sprinkles to curb the spread of leafhoppers of potatoes, but especially in the second half of the season, potato plantings should be protected from damage by leaf rot. At this time, in green foliage and leaves, the formation of carbohydrates occurs in the process of photosynthesis, their transportation to the tubers, where carbohydrates are stored in the form of starch. The longer green grasses last, the greater the tuber yield will form and more starch can be stored in the tubers of the new crop. However, in the course of the season, you should not overdo it with nitrogen fertilizers – it promotes the growth and formation of lacunae, but prolongs the vegetation of the plant and inhibits the formation of starch accumulations in the tubers.
Collecting the crop is also important, but potatoes for processing starch do not require special storage. However, transport is needed to deliver the crop to the processing plant.
Production costs and profits
In our reviewed 2019. in the year, the national average potato yield per hectare was 22.4 t, while in potatoes accepted for processing into starch, starch was on average 20.2%. The yield of starch obtained-4.5 t / ha. Since the yield level has not been high, it must be assumed that the production expenditure did not exceed 1000 euros/ha. However, the profit obtained was also not too high with such a low level of starch yield.
But in order to get a higher yield, also providing more starch in tubers, expenses for growing potatoes increased, and after calculations it turned out that the cost of production in 2019. there were around 1680 euros/ha per year. However, with a high yield of tubers, the starch yield per hectare reached at least 10 tons.
Not only expenses increased, but also profits from both one hectare and a ton of starch transferred to the processing enterprise. The yield per hectare, if at least 10 t of starch was obtained, was five times higher than the yield per hectare, if the yield of starch was less than 5 t per hectare. Further, as the amount of starch obtained per hectare increased significantly, both the profit per ton of starch produced and the profit per hectare where the potatoes were grown increased significantly.
Unfortunately, the outgoing year has brought drastic changes in production costs for farmers and processors alike. For example, the cost of resources in the cultivation of potatoes compared 2020. and 2021. in the spring of the year, increased by 70%.
Beneficial processing of potatoes
Potato starch producers also benefit from processing potato tubers containing more starch, as production costs are reduced. To obtain one ton of starch, less potatoes with a large amount of starch must be processed than if there is little starch in the tubers. This means that the choice of a suitable variety is beneficial not only for potato growers, but also for processors. So, thoughtful and process-aware cultivation of potatoes for processing into starch is beneficial and potatoes can be called a profitable field crop.
Aloya Starkelsen is still trying to ensure a profitable production process and continue to produce potato starch. Compared to 2019. the annual base fee per tonne of starch transferred is increased by 45%, but additional allowances are made for the excess of the contractual amount. In the future, the level of payment is planned to be adjusted to market prices and global demand.
Food products will be needed in any conditions, and the stability and security of our country will be ensured by food produced by ourselves, and also by the possibility of export.
A source: https://www.la.lv