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Heat Stress of Emerging Potato Plants (06/07/18)

The higher than normal temperatures have caused rapid emergence of potato plants but has also caused damage on some potatoes.

Heat Stress of Emerging Potato Plants

The higher than normal temperatures have caused rapid emergence of potato plants but has also caused damage on some potatoes. Many russet-skinned cultivars are sensitive to high temperatures. As a potato stem grows from the seed piece to emerge from the soil, it can encounter a heat layer in the soil. For example, on an 85 °F day with full sunshine, I found the soil temperature to be 110 °F 4-inches below the top of the potato hill in a sandy-loam soil. The rapid change from 50 or 60 °F soil to 110 °F often can disrupt the growing point of the stem. Lately, I have seen many fields that have emerging shoots that are crinkled and sometimes have chlorotic leaves (Image 1). Many people ask me if this is herbicide injury, but this is not the case. Where we have herbicide trials the non-treated plots look exactly like the herbicide-treated plots. When heat stressed plants are dug out of the hill, some of the plants will have a ‘candelabra’ or splitting of shoots starting part way up the stem. This is likely the case of the apical meristem being shocked from the heat and dies back. When this occurs, the axillary buds will grow causing the multiple shoots (similar to if you pruned a branch and allowed the axillary buds on the stem to regrow). These effects can be attributed to the hot and sunny days that increase the soil temperature. If irrigation is available, water can help cool the soil. The plants typically overcome the crinkled leaves within a week or two after emergence as new leaves emerge.

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Andy Robinson

NDSU/U of M Extension Potato Agronomist

 

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