Growing potato plants successfully is one of the best achievements that one can encounter as a gardener, and it is true for varied reasons. As tempting as it seems, the process is not always so simple.
Potato plants sometimes present a number of potential problems to the owners, like the presence of holes in potato plant leaves. If you are finding solutions for the same, we have got you. It is not a potentially incurable event and if you take proper care of your plant, you can restore its health to make it more rewarding.
In the following article, we discuss in depth about the problem of holes in potato plants, what are the causes and how can we overcome them. Along with this, we also present you with some general and easy tips to take care of your potato plants.
So without any further ado, let us dive into the ultimate guide of growing your potato plants.
What Causes Holes in Potato Leaves?
A universal fact is that potatoes are root plants and are grown under the ground. This means that it is surrounded by worms and other underground insects throughout its growing period. These insects largely contribute to the formation of holes in the potato plant leaves, which become visible only when the plants are harvested.
Click beetles are a type of underground insects that produce wireworms as a part of their larvae. These wireworms find their way into the potato leaves by tunneling their way into the plant and leaving numerous holes as they proceed.
Other less common causes of holes in potato leaves include conditions of hollow heart and presence of white grubs that are equally dangerous to the overall health of the plant.
Check this out: Do Potatoes Like Wood Ash?
Let us look at the causes of holes in potato leaves more carefully:
Click beetles breed wireworms which mainly feed on the seeds of potato and the consequent growing potato tubers. This makes your potato plant exquisitely vulnerable to being attacked by wireworms.
Wireworms require a huge amount of nutrients and energy and these needs are taken care of by potato plants and the seeds. There is a law that is universal to all the underground growing plants. According to it, the soil temperature starts to warm at the deeper levels and that is exactly what wireworms thrive to live for. Therefore, they start seeping into deeper layers of soil as the plant starts growing.
As we will see in detail in the future sections, certain cost-effective pesticides are one of the most efficient ways to tackle the problems of wireworms present in the plant.
Feeding mainly on the roots of the potato plant, white grubs are another set of beetle larvae that cause major harm to the potato plant by causing holes in them. To identify white grubs, one thing that you have to keep out of mind is that they are not essentially white in color. These are reddish brown insects that have a pale body and are often visible as c shaped worms with a curved body.
These insects do not go into deeper soil levels but instead burrow themselves directly into the potato plants, causing large and noticeable holes in them. If you have ever grown cucumbers, you will know the large holes that are present in these plants. These holes are exactly copied onto the potato plants and they create a wide open space for fungus and other bacteria to fester.
If left united for a long time, the open holes in potato plants can cause the plants to turn black and rot, followed by an unpleasant smell and rotten texture.
Also Read: Why Are My Potato Plants Falling Over?
If you are not familiar with hollow heart, then try thinking about the environmental conditions of sugar center or brown heart. It will surely ring a bell. These environmental conditions are the same and are recognized by different names in different parts of the world.
It is basically refers to the time frame when potatoes are suddenly subjected to a series of rapid environmental changes without any preparation or readiness. It creates an undue burden on the potato plants to perform in a similar manner throughout the change which sometime becomes impossible for the plant.
One prominent example of when you can notice the condition of hollow heart in your potato plant is when your plant is put under a period of growth spurt followed by a span of complete drought-like conditions. This is caused by overwatering the potato plant.
When the plant is overwatered, it tries to make up for the drought period by absorbing too much of it. This leads to a growth spurt that is not natural and definitely uncontrolled. As a result, the cell division spikes up and creates an imbalance in the chemical composition of the potato plant.
The voids created by drought like conditions are primarily filled with excess water which then drains away at a quicker rate, making hollow holes in the plants, popularly known as hollow hearts or brown hearts.
As in the case of white grubs, these hearts turn brown and black if left unnoticed, producing a foul smell and rotting of the potato plant completely.
Also Read: Can You Plant Potatoes that Have Sprouted?
How to Prevent the Presence of Holes in Potato Leaves?
Given a number of causes that contribute to holes in the leaves of potato plants, there are surely a number of measures that you can take to keep your plant from having such future holes, and affecting its health. Some of these are mentioned below:
Top layer cultivation
As is evident by its name, top layer cultivation expects you to plant and cultivate your potatoes in the top 8 inches of your soil so that wireworms and other potential predators can be easily spotted by birds and beneficial insects and can be pricked to keep them from destroying the progress of the plant.
What is a better way to get rid of wireworms then simply putting up small wireworm traps into your garden to catch these worms and kill them as soon as they try to enter the periphery of your plant.
Introduce beneficial insects into your garden
Sure some insects can prove to be a havoc to your plant produce, but do you know that if you introduce the right type of insects to your garden, then they can be of immense benefit to your plants.
First things first, they help keep other potential insects and bacteria away by feeding on them. Next, they also increase the quality and nutrient profile of your plants so you don’t have to worry about adding additional nutrient supplements to boost the health of your plant.
Check this article: Is Bone Meal Good for Growing Potatoes
Pesticides like sivan present you with time and cost effective options to protect your plant from the attack of fungi, bacteria, and other insects. While organic pesticides are the most preferred forms, you can also opt for the inorganic ones to help keep the worms and pests at bay.
Pesticides should ideally be applied before the plants are cultivated. This prevents the possibility that comes from the breeding of tunnel worms right after the plant is cultivated.
Some common examples of insecticides that can be used include ethoprop, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid.
Cultivate your plant when the soil is warm
Wireworms, as we mentioned earlier, love to feed on the potato plants under warm conditions and this is one of the most important reasons that you should cultivate your plant when the soil is warm in temperature.
If you plant your potato seeds in warm temperatures, it gives more opportunities for the plant to be an easy prey to wireworms and white grubs. Therefore, either wait till the plant matures or let the soil cool down a bit before planting potatoes.
Reduce the space between your growing plants
One of the most effective methods to opt for when you are searching for solutions to the problem of hollow heart conditions in your plant is to plant the potatoes closely with minimal spacing.
If you are giving optimal space for each potato plant to grow, then you can remain assured of the fact that your plants will not compete for nutrients and water for the rest of their lives. This creates less scenarios for competition and are ideally the most beneficial things that you can do for your plant.
If you force your plant to compete for basic resources with other plants, then it will backfire and create stress in the plant, thus giving rise to conditions like hollow heart.
Also Read: How Much Sunlight Do Potatoes Need to Grow?
Prevent drought-like condition in your plants
As mentioned above, overwatering your plants after they have been through conditions of drought can lead to undue growth spurt stress on them, thus subjecting them to harmful environmental conditions like hollow heart and related issues, causing holes in them.
Therefore, it is advisable to always keep a check on the moisture levels of your potato plants and never let them slip into the face of extreme drought-like conditions or things that can severely backfire.
It is important to know how much water you are providing your plants with. Maintaining a set schedule or doing a finger test is something that is highly recommended to take care of. If by any reason, you forget to water your plants for one or two sessions, do not try to overcompensate it by watering your plants more the next day. It will only contribute to adverse conditions and do more harm than any good.
Installing a good quality and durable moisture meter is something that is highly suggested by experts to monitor the accurate rates of moisture in plants.
Maintain a stable temperature range throughout
Just like frequent changes in the watering schedule are stressful for the plant, frequent changes in the temperature range is also not so good for your potato plants as it can harm the adaptability of your plant effectively.
The stress caused by temperature fluctuations can be reduced by using a humidifier or inducing artificial light conditions per se.
Monitor the rainfall that your plant is subjected to
This point is very closely related to the watering conditions that you’re subjecting your plant to. It is very important to monitor the rainfall that is received by your plant because this in part determines how much water your plant needs additionally.
If the frequency of the rainfall that your plant encounters annually is enough, then you might not need to water it at all. It all depends on how you plan to take care of it. However, if you plant your potatoes indoors, then this point is something that you might want to completely skip out.
Growing potato plants without any issue is surely a dream for many, but with our expert tips on how to avoid holes in potato leaves and taking care of them, you can turn this dream into a reality. Follow our tips and keep reading our blogs to get solutions for other common plant problems.