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  Preliminary Report of the Moisture Conservation Benefits of Organic Mulch to a Potato Production System

Lien Chow 1, Charles Everett2, Kevin McCully 3, John Monteith 1, Sandy Perley 3, Ron Pond 2, Herb Rees 1, Marc Robichaud 2, Pat Toner 2 and Daniel Ward 2

Partner: Federation of Agriculture, Southeast NB

Abstract: In 2000, a multi-year trial commenced at the Fredericton Potato Research Station to evaluate the benefits of organic mulch (hay) towards moisture conservation under irrigated and non-irrigated conditions. The sandy loam soils of the site used in this experiment are low in available water holding capacity, similar to soil conditions in southeast coastal areas of the province under potato production. The use of organic mulch following final hilling operations on shepody potatoes was measured for its moisture retention improvements and subsequent affect on yield. Mulch rates were 0.0, 2.25, 4.5 and 9.0 T/ha timothy hay under trickle irrigation and non-irrigation scenarios, replicated four times. Soils were monitored over the growing season for temperature and water content. Following harvest, potatoes were measured for total yield. Marketable yields were graded for small 1 5/8" to 2", Canada #1 and 10+oz. Other quality indicators such as incidence of scab, hollow heart and specific gravity were also measured. Weather parameters were measured such as precipitation over the growing season. The treatments did not significantly affect potato yield or quality under both irrigated and non-irrigated scenarios. Some of the data may suggest that 10+ oz is increased with mulch. During the growing season precipitation was only 80% of normal but well distributed. Data to date would suggest that the crop was not under moisture stress for much of the growing season. As a result the effect on overall yield and quality was not significant under these climatic conditions.

1 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, P.O. Box 20280, Fredericton, NB, E3B 4Z7
2 Land Development Branch, New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5H1
3 New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5H1

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