Growing in the air

aeroponic potato growingGrowing potatoes in mid-air, in a new technique called aeroponics, is showing great promise. The technique consists of cultivating potato seedlings on specially adapted frames so that the roots, and the tubers, grow suspended in the air, without touching the soil.

This avoids the need to disinfect the soil with harmful chemicals and keeps the tubers healthy as well. The frames are covered with black plastic to keep out the light and the plants are sprayed with a solution of nutrients to allow them to grow.

The International Potato Center (CIP) is using the technique to improve production and reduce the cost of producing seed potatoes. The method is up to ten times more effective than with the conventional techniques. Another advantage is that the little tubers can be harvested at any size seed user wants, from 5 to 30 grams. Spraying fertilizers directly on to the roots makes it possible for the growth phase to continue for more than 180 days without interruption, which does not happen with conventional techniques.

First results have been very successful. For example, 67 seed tubers were obtained per plant with the variety Yungay; with Canchán INIA, 70 tubers and with Perricholi, 69.

With conventional techniques, the average is from 5 to 10 tubers per plant.