ESN on Manitoba potatoes

Potatoes are a high-value crop that require management and attention. Nitrogen (N) needs for potatoes depend heavily on a variety of factors including season length, potato variety, and the environment.

When growing potatoes in Manitoba most farmers consider split-application strategies for getting N on the field, such as applying some N before or at planting and the remainder of the N at hilling. Another option farmers use is fertigation, where N is added through irrigation, mixed in with water.

“The problem with fertigation is that often potatoes may need water but not N, or N but not water,” explains Ray Dowbenko, Senior Agronomist, Nutrien. “If they get too much water in the field, it can cause yield loss.”

Split-application creates more work for potato growers and adds the hassle of having to make a second pass to re-apply N later on in the growing season.

Using a controlled-release N fertilizer allows farmers to apply N in a single application. The protective polymer coating of ESN Smart Nitrogen® protects N from loss mechanisms and releases N in response to soil moisture and temperature.

“ESN works well with potatoes for a few reasons,” says Dowbenko. “ESN protects the environment from leaching of N, common in the high water management regime used with potatoes. Due to its polymer coating, the release of N is controlled, and a grower can make the N application at planting time, or pre-plant, and be confident the N will remain on the field for the rest of the season.”

“Potatoes are challenging to grow,” adds Dowbenko, “ESN is a good fit because it gives farmers less to worry about when it comes to N fertilizer.”

The timing requirements of N differ depending on if farmers are growing table potatoes or chipping potatoes. In Manitoba, potatoes can have a long or short growing season, depending on a variety of factors.

ESN works well with both table and chipping potatoes. Farmers growing chipping potatoes should consider using a blend of ESN, for example, 70 per cent ESN and 30 per cent urea, ensuring the potatoes have enough N upfront as well as later on in the growing season. Table potatoes usually do not need N until later on in the season, and 100 per cent of applied N can be in the form of ESN.

“Use recommendations for ESN on potatoes are specific to growth stages and regions, making it critical for growers to follow recommendations based on local geography and the variety of potato,” explains Dowbenko. “ESN always has a fit with potatoes, but it’s important to get information on best practices from ESN retailers.”

For more information on ESN, visit