Monday, 19 March 2018


The large variability in resource efficiencies observed among potato farmers, even within regions with homogenos agro-ecological conditions, indicates a great potential for many farmers to improve efficiencies and reduce pollution from agricultural activities, a study on resource efficiencies in potato production wants to demonstrate.

“Can South Africa produce more potatoes with less water?” -  a current study with participation of AC Franke, JM Steyn, ATB Machakaire, and AJ Haverkort, investigates.

Intensive, high-input farmers that achieve high yields are not necessarily more or less efficient in the use of resources compared to low-input farmers aiming for moderate yields. Water is clearly a key resource in potato production that affects the use efficiency of other resources. The use of decision support systems, such as irrigation scheduling tools, is thus key to improve resource use efficiencies, according to the authors.

Potato production in South Africa takes place on about 50 000 ha, with 92% of the production area under irrigation. As potato production regions in South Africa differ widely in climate, soils and production seasons, input use and resource use efficiencies also greatly differ between regions. In general, sandy soils (e.g. in the Sandveld) are associated with higher water use and lower water and nutrient use efficiencies due to the poor ability of these soils to retain water and nutrients.

“In regions such as Limpopo and North West, where potato is irrigated with borehole water and pumping costs make up a main component of the production costs, water use efficiencies tend to be high. In general, the scarcer and more expensive a resource, the more efficient farmers tend to use it. The amount of irrigation water applied and water use efficiency are not related to each other. Some low yielding farmers achieve good water use efficiency due to low irrigation rates, while some farmers applying high irrigation rates also achieve good water use efficiency due to excellent yields,” the researchers find.  

Related articles: 

BLOG: Water Problems for Potato’s Future? 

Save water, save money! 

Farmers in Uzbekistan learn how to improve productivity and save water

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