Equipment/Technology

Desiccation: Smart app ‘WatchITgrow’ potato farmers said to use up to 50% less chemicals

The quality of the potato harvest depends on many factors – obviously weather conditions, crop protection and fertilization, but the timely, accurate and correct haulm killing of potato tops is also of great importance, says the WatchITgrow app program team at VITO in Belgium.

Using satellite images in WatchITgrow, one can see how green the tops of the potatoes are. And now you can also produce ‘task maps‘ to apply top-killing products variably. The newly developed app of WatchITgrow allows for a much more effective – and up to 50 percent less – use of chemicals, according to VITO scientists.

During a time when less use of chemicals is a goal everywhere, the app is no doubt an important tool for potato farmers. The subsoil shaping of the skins of potatoes happens in ideal circumstances by the natural dying of the tops above ground. However, often the circumstances do not allow this maturing process to happen in a natural and – from the farmers perspective – timely manner. That is why chemicals are used to kill the tops.

The average potato farmer is nowadays still spraying the whole field with the same dosage of haulm killing chemicals. But when using the WatchITgrow app, potato farmers can see exactly where they can skip the spraying at some places, or where they can use lower dosages when the tops have already partially died.

By combining satellite images, weather data, soil data, IoT and user data the online information, the WatchITgrow platform collects information about the growth stage and health of a particular potato crop. With this information in hand, it is rather easy to produce precise task maps.

Before, one could already produce task maps in WatchITgrow for variable fertilization and irrigation. Now it is also possible to produce task maps for the variable dosage of top killing products used for potato desiccation.

Potato growers can download this task map for an entire field as a ‘shapefile’ and upload it into his sprayer. Tests have shown that the farmer, depending on the situation and the spraying technique used, can save between 25 and 50 percent on the use – and also the cost – of top killing products.

Further information on the WatchITgrow and VITO websites here – just follow the links.