Volunteer Potatoes

flowering potato

What are volunteer potatoes?

Volunteer potatoes can be extremely competitive weeds, especially where present in row crops, such as sugar-beet. 

Usually occurring as volunteers from previous potato cropping, they occur most commonly in the arable areas of the east of England where potato growing is most common. Affecting both harvesting and yield, it is important to take out these weeds early in the sugar-beet crop.

Why are volunteer potatoes a problem?

For the first eight weeks of growth, the sugar-beet crop is extremely uncompetitive, so it must fight with weeds with a high biomass, such as volunteer potatoes, to establish and compete for water and nutrients. 

Volunteer potatoes can impede crop growth and create unwanted shade that will quickly have a detrimental effect on yield.

Research has shown that as little as 5 potato volunteer plants per square metre can result in yield losses of up to 16.5t/ha in sugar-beet. In addition, potato volunteers can act as an important source of potato blight and a host for potato cyst nematodes.

How do I control volunteer potatoes?

Shield Pro™ is the best option for the control of volunteer potatoes in sugar-beet and since tall weeds should be controlled early, growers should target plants when they are 5-10cm tall with an application of Shield Pro at 0.25l/ha, followed by an further application of 0.25l/ha, 7 – 10 days later.

Other weeds such as Corn Marigold, Groundsel, Pineapple weed, Mayweeds, Black-bindweed, Redshank and Pale Persicaria will also be controlled. If targeting thistles an initial application of Shield Pro at 0.25l/ha at rosette stage, should be followed by a further application of 0.5l/ha, 3-4 weeks later.