Home' Smart Farmer : November 2014 Contents • SmartFarmer
ATOTAL switch to sweet
potato growing and newer
fertiliser technologies has
resulted in operational and input
efficiencies as well as improved
produce quality for North Coast
NSW farming brothers Matthew and
After previously growing tomatoes
and zucchinis in rotation on their
light red volcanic soils near Cudgen,
the Prichards moved to a 100 per
cent sweet potato program to help
simplify their cropping operation,
reduce labour requirements and
Drawing on their expertise from
growing tomatoes and zucchinis,
the Beauregard sweet potatoes are
grown on drip irrigation follow-
ing planting from late September
through to mid-February.
Harvest occurs from late January
through to early November, with
another crop planted in May and
harvested in January.
Half of their farm is also sown
to Jumbo sorghum and sometimes
triticale as part of the annual rotation
with the sweet potatoes to help
suppress parasitic nematodes.
The sorghum land is worked to
assist residue breakdown prior to
planting of the pathogen-tested
sweet potatoes, while any volunteer
sorghum is sprayed.
An application of Nemacur is
applied at bed forming for further
Soil testing is undertaken to assess
for nematodes and crop nutritional
Lime and boron are usually
applied before planting.
The Prichards are also now apply-
ing a custom, controlled release fer-
tiliser blend, Ferticote from Barmac,
The Ferticote blend contains
trace elements and has eliminated
the need to apply micronutrients
North Coast NSW potato grower Matthew Prichard with Barmac area manager Ron Bollard on the Prichards' Cudgen
property in NSW discussing the family's new nutritional strategy for its sweet potatoes. It has helped eliminate
fertigation requirements and related jobs, and improved potato quality.
The Ferticote blend
has allowed for
even distribution of
paddocks and resulted in
The use of Ferticote has allowed
for more even distribution of the
micronutrients across paddocks and
resulted in better potato quality.
"We know that boron, zinc and
manganese are lacking in the soils,
but they are difficult to spin out
by themselves at 15 kilograms per
hectare," Matthew said.
He said Ferticote, which uses
Haifa's Multicote controlled-release
technology, suited the higher-rainfall
conditions and helped save most of
the fertigation requirements later.
"Being controlled-release, it elimi-
nates another application of pos-
sibly potassium nitrate or potassium
sulphate. We just can't do all the
dressings. If controlled-release can
eliminate all the jobs, like being out
at the pumps all the time, it will be
much better," Matthew said.
"In considering the cost of a
controlled-release fertiliser blend,
growers just need to weigh up the
cost of their base fertiliser plus the
trace elements, the applications and
all the separate jobs. As a value
comparison, you just look at the
cost of spreading the trace elements
separately against a single applica-
tion of Ferticote.
"With the Ferticote, the ferti-
liser is in the hill and every row
has got exactly the same amount of
Matthew said this had also con-
tributed to improved potato quality.
"Our quality is definitely up.
"We are getting more potatoes in
the premium zone, which is 180-
250 millimetres long at 60-75mm
"Last year we looked at a com-
pound fertiliser alongside Ferticote
and we visually saw more premium
potatoes with the Ferticote."
The Prichards' custom blend
releases nitrogen over two months
and potassium nitrate over four
"Research has shown that low
levels of nitrogen at planting is
desirable, which is why we also
went away from using standard base
fertilisers," Matthew said.
"Theory suggests there should be
less nitrogen at the start to allow
better quality at the end."
He said the accuracy of release of
the controlled-release fertiliser also
meant they could possibly reduce
The Prichards produce up to 100
tonnes a hectare of the Beauregard
sweet potatoes and average about
They are supplied to Woolworths
through Hydro Produce in Sydney.
off at Cudgen
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