Potato Bed-Planter System Theory

Beds versus ridged-rows                                      7 rows in the same area as 4 rows

The potato bed-planting system that Western Ag Research uses was originally designed by my dad (John P Taberna) and along with a few innovative farmers, with the goal of ‘making’ better use of land and water resources. With time, land and water will become less available. One of the ways to increase land availability within the same land area is to reduce the amount of furrow space that current potato planting configurations occupy.

In Idaho, potatoes are planted using a ridge-row system that are spaced 36-inches apart. By lifting the furrow into a raised bed format, we eliminate land area that was once occupied by three furrows. In this space we can add 1-3 more rows depending on the potato variety and the desired market.

By reducing furrow space, we have demonstrated water and nutrient use efficiency. The furrow is an area mainly for drainage. Published root distribution data show that at most 25% of the potato roots are distributed in the furrow, with the remaining 75% or more of the roots located in the hill or slightly below the hill. In beds, rooting systems appear to be more horizontal and occupy a more uniform area of land. That is where we believe the water and nutrient efficiency is coming from; a more uniform distribution of roots in the potato-bed system as compared to ridge-rows.

Thus far, we have seen 5-15% less water applied to beds versus ridged-rows on sands and about 0-10% less water on loam soils. This was done with beds producing similar to slightly higher total tuber yield.

In Eastern-Idaho, Western Ag Research has 4-bed planters available to farmers to evaluate this technology themselves. It is basically a try-before-you-buy program.