Alexander Pavlista: Drought study
By Bill Schaefer
When's the best time to cut back on water with the least harm to a potato's development? It's a question of topical relevance in all agricultural centers in the United States, perhaps nowhere more so than in western Nebraska.
Cyclical drought conditions in western Nebraska prompted Alex Pavlista, crop physiologist and potato specialist at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center, to research when you can cut back irrigation without harming tuber development.
"Figuring that potatoes need about 24 to 25 inches of water," Pavlista said, "that means rain plus irrigation in a normal year. In western Nebraska we normally get, during the growing season, maybe four inches. This year we haven't even come close."
Pavlista just completed his four-year study with the 2012 fall harvest.
While he is currently compiling the results of the fourth year of research, he spoke of results gleaned from the first three years of the project.
Using the cultivar Atlantic, Pavlista developed four different irrigation regimes in his study.
"The potatoes will never be starved of water, but we will remove half the amount of water for different periods of time," Pavlista said, describing the four different irrigation regimes used in the project.
Pavlista has found that growers shouldn't hold back the water from tuber initiation to mid-bulking. He said that the best time to withhold water would be in the final three weeks of the season.