Spudman February 2023 - 31

Management challenges persist
Weed and insect control, along with disease
management if you're in a location near other
potato farms, are primary concerns in an organic
potato operation.
Orin Moyer of OriGin Farm in Berks County,
Pennsylvania, acknowledged there are multiple
approaches to these challenges.
Weed control
" This is what we do. I'm not saying it's the only way.
There are lots of ways, " he said.
OriGin doesn't use a rotary (hiller or tiller) on potatoes.
" That's a bad idea. We always use a 20-foot tine
weeder. We go in about a week after planting and drag
the weeds off. Then, we usually go in again in 2-2½
weeks. Sometimes if we're doing a good job, we'll go in
right at, or just after, emergence, and we'll drag again.
Usually, by that time we're starting to get the field
pretty flattened out, so we don't want to drag them too
much more.
" We usually do go across them at least twice with the
twine weeder. And we usually start cultivation right
about then. We still cultivate at least two to three times.
" We usually just hill the plants one time. I know
some guys are messing with hilling and planting. For us
that would not work because we would have no way to
create good weed control during the season. "
OriGin sets up its cultivators so they're hilling a little
bit every pass.
" We put ridging wings on, " he said. " We have one
single-shank cultivator. We're constantly trying to
cultivate not to get rid of weeds. We're always pushing
it into the row every time. We use a four-wheel hiller.
We do usually put a lot of weight on it. When we go
through the last time, I really do want a mound of dirt
to get weed control in the row.
" One of the things with organics is if you want to
keep it really clean, you will use multiple tools to make
it happen, " Moyer said. " Every time we go through,
we're trying to push in more and more. We've found
that to work best for weed control. I think you can get
good weed control with the cultivators. "
The most challenging time for weeds is end-ofseason.
" When
we have the worst end-of-season weed
control it's when we go into a sod field because
we tend to get foxtail that wouldn't have been
prevalent in hay if we had dormant seasons. We've
contemplated late-season cultivating, just narrowing
everything up in the rows, so we don't damage tubers
mechanically. We didn't do it yet. We may do it this
year. It's a pain when you have a field that's clean,
and then you get to the time to harvest and you have
weeds to mess with. "
Insect control
OriGin is not in an area where a lot of potatoes are
grown.
" That is an advantage to me that some other guys
may not have, " Moyer said. " We usually don't have a lot
of Colorado potato beetle issues. If we're cultivating 25
acres, you might see 20 infected plants. Usually, we'll
just stop, get off and cull. One year we did have them a
little bit worse. We did use Entrust. It worked well. It's
not cheap. We sprayed one time, probably four weeks
after emergence. I wouldn't spray it unless you have to,
but it definitely worked to clean the fields up.
Leafhoppers are " our No. 1 pest and they are hard for
us to deal with. I don't have a great answer. We've pretty
much stopped using the pyganics. We don't spray like
we should, and that's probably an issue.
" The one thing we have found that probably worked
better than anything is a Bordeaux mixture of pure
copper sulfate, fine lime and water. We've found it
works really good. It's a copper mix, so it also helps with
some disease control.
" Majestine is available for wireworms. I've never used
Majestine. Typically, if we're picking the right fields
in the rotation that we should, we don't have a lot of
wireworm issues. The only time we've had a bad time
with wireworms is if we went in after sod.
Having good soil health and good crop rotation
are our best solutions for insect control, said Moyer.
" Because we rent multiple farms, we do try and rotate
our potatoes around. We're not like a lot of typical
commercial potato growers who might have potatoes,
then the next year they are right back in that field.
We're not in that situation intentionally because I think
I would run into control of insects and stuff like that. "
Disease management
" I've hardly done anything for disease management.
Maybe I just got lucky. I don't spray fungicides, even
though there are a few organic ones out there. It's
just not something we have done. To my knowledge
we've never had any disease issues that have created
substantial yield losses for us.
" I may be mistaken, but I think that the organic
table stock market is really picking up. It seems like
there's less evidence for damage or slight damage on
table stock potatoes. Not that the conventional market
doesn't want it either, but it seems like there's less room
for blends to be accepted. "
- Gary Pullano
Spudman.com 31
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Spudman February 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Spudman February 2023

Spudman February 2023 - 1
Spudman February 2023 - 2
Spudman February 2023 - 3
Spudman February 2023 - 4
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