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Potato cultivation

Potato cultivation should only be done during a time when the soil moisture is right. During this stage, it is important to reduce soil structure damage. Compaction and other issues caused by cultivating early will normally cause more yield loss than the ‘lost days’ spent waiting for soil to dry.
The information on this page is taken from:


Before ploughing, it is important to take in consideration soil mosture and plough setting to help wasting resources and causing soil damage.  

You should take in consideration factors such as:

  • Skimmers setting 
  • Speed control
  • Plough depth suitable for the soil type

You can read more about ploughing and how you could achieve efficent results by reading Arable Soil management, page 15-16 

Pre-ridging and deep ridging cultivation 

While pre-ridging could have a positive impact on loosening stiff soil, which can pull the tractor off-line, making it hard to maintain a straight line. deep ridging will bring a significant amount of wet material to the surface.

Here's our tips for success:

  • Check soil conditions by digging down to 300-350 mm; if it is easy (don’t have to stand on spade), no pre-ridging work is required
  • Watch for operators going too fast and the tines riding up out of the ground
  • Check working depth
  • When deep ridging you should leabe the soil to dry out for 1-2 hours before bed-tilling or separting

You can read more about potato cultivation in the Soil Management for potatoes, page 15-16 


Subsoiling is a routine operation to ensure good drainage and root passage. However the need and the time for subsoiling should carefully assed.

  • Autumn subsoiling is effective for heavier soils, as conditions at depth are likely to be dry enough for shattering and overwinter slumping risk is low
  • If moisture levels are adequate, spring subsoiling reduces the risk of slumping on lighter, especially sandy, soils

You can read more about subsoiling and what you should take in consideration if you do this after planting, in the Arable soil management, page 26

Deep non-inversion

  • Deep soil movement
  • Typical depths are 20–35 cm
  • Crop residues mixed into the top soil
  • Usually, moved to depth, unless low surface disturbance loosening is used in combination with shallow surface mixing

Shallow non-inversion 

  • Shallow surface movement
  • Typical depths are 5–10 cm
  • Most crop residues remain on the soil surface
  • Can be combined with low surface disturbance loosening (as a separate operation)
  • Uses discs or tines

Strip tillage (non-inversion)

  • Combines tillage (typical depths are 5–10 cm) and drilling, if needed, in strips* (as opposed to the entire field)
  • Specialist drill having leading cultivation elements
  • Most crop residues remain on the soil surface

*Can be considered a form of direct drilling

Read the Pros and Cons in the the Arable soil management, page 33  

Plough (inversion) 

  • Viewed as a ‘conventional’ cultivation
  • Inversion and burial of surface residues
  • Plough depths vary (15–40 cm)
  • Typical depths are 20 cm and 40 cm
  • Subsequent cultivation passes are often used to condition the soil

Direct drilling (non-inversion)

  • Crop established in one pass, direct into land without prior cultivation
  • The operation often uses some form of cultivation (e.g. to loosen topsoil before seed placement), followed by rollers to firm the soil
  • Typical depth is 5 cm. Where no soil movement occurs, it is ‘no-tilled’
  • Uses either a specialist drill or a cultivator drill combined with loosening tines

No-till/zero-till (non-inversion) 

  • Crop sown directly into previous crop’s stubble without any prior topsoil loosening
  • Specialist operation that often uses a disc to cut a slot in the soil, in which the seed (and fertiliser) is placed. Following press wheel(s) close the slot
  • Sometimes referred to as direct drilling


During cultivation associated traffic can lead to soil damage and compaction.

Compaction can develop in the following zones:

  • Compaction pan below plough depth
  • Compaction pan just above plough depth
  • Compaction in wheelings 
  • Compaction at the base of the ridge
  • Compaction below the tuber
  • Compaction of the ridge (‘capping’)

You can find more about compaction and how you can tackle this issue depending on the zone in the Arable soil management, page 24-26