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
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.