Potato irrigation in Kenya is done by overhead sprinklers, rain hose kits, or drip irrigation. This is during the dry season or in middle altitude areas where rainfall is insufficient in the season. Potato irrigation in Kenya is uncommon in the highlands where seasonal rainfall is sufficient to carry the crop to maturity. But with the changing climate, rainfall patterns are less predictable and, the number of farmers in the highlands irrigating increases annually.
1. Irrigation method of potato
Overhead irrigation on hilled potato furrows is the most common irrigation way. This requires high water volume and a high-pressure pump to execute. Drip irrigation is the fastest growing method of irrigating potatoes because it is water efficient.
2. Potato irrigation scheduling
A farmer will keep a proper schedule because potato does not tolerate water stress. Under-irrigation leads to poor tuber quality and low yield. Over-irrigation leaches nitrogen, makes the crop susceptible to disease and there is tuber quality loss during storage. The farmer will know how much water to give and when to avoid any of these two problems.
3. Critical stage of irrigation in potato
During tuber formation, irrigation is done sufficiently to support the crop’s increased water needs. It is the most important stage of the crop’s irrigation. When the tubers mature, less irrigation is carried out.
4. Water requirements for potato
Potato in Kenya mature in 150 days. In this time, 500mm to 700mm of water per crop is enough.
5. Irrigation time of potato
Early morning is the best time to irrigate potatoes. This allows the soil to warm during the day reducing the chances of fungal root disease. Night irrigation lowers soil temperature, a precursor for fungal root diseases.
6. Potato irrigation management
When the crop is young, it requires smaller amounts of water. This increases gradually as the crop matures to peak at tuber formation. Once the tubers are mature, then the water requirement drops.
7. Potato drip irrigation system and method
Every furrow ridge has one drip line with an emitter spacing of 15cm or 20cm. Drip irrigation is the best way to irrigate potatoes because it delivers water directly to the root zone, and is water efficient.
8. Cost of potato irrigation in Kenya
The cost per acre is; Kes 125,000 for drip irrigation. Kes 75,000 for rain hose or sprinkler irrigation system
i. How much water is required to grow potatoes?
500mm to 700mm per crop per season is sufficient
ii. Do potatoes need irrigation?
Yes they do in locations where the seasonal rainfall is not enough
iii. How much water does a potato plant need per day?
Potato requires 1 to 2 inches of water per week
iv. When should I stop watering my potato plants?
2 weeks before harvest
v. How often should you water potato plants?
Keep the soil moist always during the growing season of the crop