Calcium is a vital nutrient for potatoes and most aspects of tuber quality can be improved by having a sufficient supply of calcium during growth. It is required in the crop for the maintenance of cell walls, healthy leaf and tuber development.
Calcium deficiency is widely known as internal rust spot - a physiological internal defect in which small brown spots, due to cell death, appear in the tuber. This is directly related to a lack of calcium within the cell walls, meaning that they aren’t strong enough and when cell expansion takes place they collapse and necrosis occurs.
Once calcium is incorporated into cell walls it can’t be redistributed therefore it is important to have a sufficient supply as new cells develop. As mentioned already, calcium is integral to cell walls and give the cells, particularly the skin, strength. Therefore a sufficient supply will help ensure the skin has a good finish as well as helping against physical damage which can occur during harvesting and handling.
However, it’s not only the timing of calcium that needs to be right but also the source of calcium that is being applied. There is a misconception sometimes that liming materials will contain and provide enough calcium for the crop but many liming materials are calcium carbonate based. This means that they aren’t very water-soluble and consequently not freely available to the potato crop through the growing season.
Boron has important roles within plants and in cell wall has a synergistic relationship with calcium and also helps increase calcium uptake. Boron is involved in stabilising cell membranes and cell walls which can lead to less bruising during handling.
As previously mentioned the timing of application to the potato crop is essential to flush the developing tuber with soluble calcium therefore the optimum application period is at tuber initiation. The ideal source of fully soluble calcium is YaraLiva Tropicote which should be applied at tuber initiation.