By taking an integrated approach built around a three-year rotation, Maine potato growers should be able to see better yields and improve sustainability.
Those are the results of research led by Agricultural Research Service plant pathologist Bob Larkin at the New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Orona, Maine.
Over several years, the scientists evaluated how cover crops, rotations, soil amendments and irrigation affected crop production and yields, according to a news release.
The researchers found that a three-year crop rotation worked better than a two-year rotation in helping break the host-pathogen cycle.
The longer rotations provided better disease control as well as higher crop yields.
The longer rotations also promoted beneficial soil microbes that improved soil quality by increasing soil organic matter or by inhibiting plant pathogens.
Economics also were factored in. A combination of Brassica and sudangrass green manures, fall cover crops and crop rotations reduced soilborne diseases by up to 58 percent.
The compost mix also increased tuber yields by up to 42 percent.