by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Vertical planting of sweet potatoes reduces time until harvest
- Vine cuttings method can yield between 12-13 sweet potatoes from one stool
- This method requires less land space and potatoes will store for a longer time
A new vertical planting method of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) as compared to the traditional method of horizontal planting, will see local farmers harvesting in 2 months’ time rather than having to wait 3 months to harvest.
This method is being introduced by farming experts at the Chinese Agricultural Mission in La Sagesse, St David. Liaison Officer between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Chinese Agricultural Mission, Mary Sylvester said in using the vine cuttings method, cuttings are planted in an inclined position with half of its length buried in the soil. This means that farmers can yield between 12-13 sweet potatoes from one stool.
Last Wednesday, officials from the Chinese Agricultural Mission demonstrated how effective the new method can be to agricultural extension officers, farmers, and 4‑H’ers from Woburn Methodist, St Michael’s RC, and Calliste Government schools.
“The difference between both is that Grenadians plant potatoes horizontally, and it takes around 3 months while the Chinese plant potatoes vertically by removing leaves, 3-4 nodes and cutting off the top and then placing it in a vertical position into the ground, inserting it 5-10 cm at a 45-degree angle,” said Sylvester.
According to experts, vine cuttings should be planted at about a 45° angle, as this promotes even root development. Half of the cutting or three to four nodes should be buried at a spacing of 25 – 30 cm (10 – 12 inches) between plants.
Planting potatoes using this method requires less land space. In addition, potatoes will store for a longer time with a vertical growing method.
The Southern Agricultural District of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Chinese Agricultural Mission have collaborated to execute this pilot project which is expected to yield healthier foods to bolster the school-feeding programme of the 3 participating schools.
“The timing is right. Grenadians normally plant around Corpus Christi, Whit Monday and with schools about to go on vacation, if they plant it now with the start of the rainy season, it can be harvested in time for the reopening of school in September to be used in school-feeding programme,” she said.
Head of the project Sam Shen of the Chinese Agricultural Mission said training will also be provided to local farmers to encourage them to try this method. “We plan to stage activities to invite farmers here to demonstrate to the farmer how to plant sweet potatoes using our advance method,” he said.
China remains one of the largest producers of sweet potatoes followed by India and by Russia. Test trials conducted at New Delhi, India showed that vertical planting resulted in higher marketable yields over horizontal planting.