Potatoes were first introduced outside the Andes region four centuries ago, and have become an integral part of much of the world's cuisine. It is the world's fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat and maize. In Egypt the crop was introduced on a small scale during the nineteenth century. It is nowadays the second most important vegetable crop after tomato and Egypt is one of the largest producers and exporters of potatoes in Africa.
- Solanaceae, Genus: Solanum, Species: Solanum tuberosum
Occurrence & Agricultural Importance in Egypt:
- Cultivation areas:
- Commercial production of potatoes in Egypt is concentrated in the Nile Delta and Middle Egypt. The governorates of Behaira, Gharbia, Menofia, and Sharkia are the leading producers of potatoes in the Nile Delta, with significant production also occurring in Alexandria and Dakhliya. Production in Middle Egypt is concentrated in Giza and Minia. With brown rot (Ralstonia solanacearum) being a serious quarantine disease relevant to exported potato, new disease-free land for cultivation is always in demand. New plantations are now found also in East El Ewinate near the Sudanese boarders.
- Main Varieties:
- According to their use potato varieties can be classified in the following categories:
Main Export Varieties: Nicola, Diamant, Spunta, Nova, Mondial, Lady Christal, Lesita, Sante, Ditta, Cara and Monaliza
Main Processing Varieties: Diamant, Cardinal, Lady Rossetta, Lady Olympia, Saturna, Heartha, Hermes, Sinora, Bolesta, Lady Claire, Alpha, Asterix, Donald, , Agria, Desiree and Santana.
Varieties for Local Consumption: Diamond, Spunta, Draga, Alpha, Slaney, Burn, Mondial, Arinda, Provento, Valor, Sante, Ditta, Santana, Picasso, Accent and Gygant.
Marketing Information and Uses:
The annual diet of an average global citizen in the first decade of the 21st century included about 33 kg of potato. However, the local importance of potato is extremely variable and rapidly changing. It remains an essential crop in Europe (especially eastern and central Europe) where per capita production is still the highest in the world, but the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. China is now the world's largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world's potatoes are harvested in China and India.
- Export Markets:
- Egyptian potato exports fluctuate from one season to another. In year 2010 Egyptian companies managed to export 289 thousand Tonnes while in 2011 the exported quantity rose to 461 thousand Tonnes. The main export destinations in 2011 were Russia, EU countries and countries in the Gulf region
Cultivation conditions & methods:
- Soil type:
- Potatoes prefer well aerated, loamy soil with good drainage. Soil Salinity, water logging and high levels of calcium-carbonate are undesirable for potato cultivation as they negatively affect productivity and starch content.
- Plant Nutrition requirements: Soil should be subjected to analysis for nutrient availability in order to develop an appropriate fertilisation scheme.
- Planting period:
Potatoes are cultivated continuously in Egypt from August to June.
Plantings from mid-August to mid-October (main plantation) are harvested from December to mid-February. This represents about 55% of annual production and it is destined mainly for exporting.
Plantings from late-October to mid-November account for 10% or less of annual production and are harvested in February. This crop is grown mainly for export.
December till mid-February plantings are harvested in May/June. Most of this crop (roughly 35% of annual production) is sold on the local market or kept as seed for autumn planting.
- Seed rate:
This is subject to variety, seed size and desired crop density but in general 750 to 850 Kg per Feddan is used if tubers are divided (cut) and 1000 to 1250 Kg/Feddan if planted with tubers are kept intact.
Cutting of seed tubers is common although not recommended practice for some varieties. Farmers who cut their seed should take measures such as applying seed treatment (which is anyhow important) in order to prevent infection of planting material and to control early pests & diseases.
- Harvesting methods:
- Most potato crops grown for export are mechanised or semi-mechanised; the remainder often involve hand labour.
- Storage at 2-3 oC, RH 85%-90%, for 45-120 days
- Crop Rotation:
- Crop rotation is a key factor to management of a lot of diseases like brown rot, black stem, Rhizoctonia, soft rot and nematodes. Potatoes are generally planted every three or four years in a given field. Crops rotated with potatoes include wheat, barley, alfalfa, soybeans, peas, clover, cotton, and maize, depending on local conditions and farmer preference.