Chitting potatoes is a simple process that involves pre-sprouting your seed potatoes before planting. Chitting your potatoes will encourage them to produce more shoots and ultimately provide a better yield.
Why Chit Potatoes?
Potatoes are typically grown from seed potatoes rather than actual seeds. Seed potatoes are small potatoes specifically grown to be planted as a crop. Chitting the potatoes before planting allows you to encourage them to produce more shoots, resulting in a more abundant harvest.
Although the benefits of chitting potatoes have been heavily debated, ultimately, studies have demonstrated that chitting can reduce the days to harvest time and may increase yield. This is important for areas that have shorter growing seasons, like where I live in the low desert of Arizona.
How to Chit Potatoes
Select a cool, dry location with plenty of light. I chit my potatoes under a grow light in my seed starting station or near a sunny window.
Lay your seed potatoes out in a single layer with the eyes facing upwards. The eyes are the indentation on the potato where sprouts and roots will begin to grow.
After a few weeks, sprouts emerge from the eyes. The sprouts will start to grow long and thin; keep them well-lit, and prevent them from being damaged or broken.
Discard potatoes that are rotten or very soft.
When to plant chitted potatoes
After the sprouts are approximately 1 inch (3-4 cm) long, it is time to plant your potatoes.
If your seed potatoes are large, cut them in half after chitting. Ensure each half is at least as large as an egg and has 2-3 sprouts. After cutting the potatoes, let the skin dry and form a protective layer.
What about sweet potatoes? The differences between growing sweet potatoes and regular potatoes
Sweet and regular potatoes might appear similar, but their growth habits and planting requirements differ. While potatoes grow from the sprouts on the potato, sweet potatoes are grown from slips that are removed and then planted. Slips are small plants that grow off of a mature sweet potato. Learn how to make sweet potato slips in this blog post.
Chitting potatoes is a simple yet essential step in potato planting. It allows you to encourage your seed potatoes to produce more shoots, ultimately resulting in a more abundant crop.
Learn how to grow potatoes in straw in this blog post.
Growing potatoes in containers? Get growing tips in this blog post.
The duration of chitting significantly decreased the days to emergence and tuberization, suggesting an earlier harvest time (Springer).
Chitting could give higher yields earlier in the season before late blight ended crop growth (Springer).
Chitting seed potatoes at Craibstone increased yields (Cambridge Core).
Cchitting/pre-sprouting, especially using more blight-resistant main crop potato varieties, can further reduce foliar blight severity and increase yields (ScienceDirect).
Efforts to increase tuber yield should focus on reducing the time to emergence, suggesting that chitting could play a role (Luke.fi).
In summary, while the results may vary based on various factors, chitting can reduce harvest time and increase yield in certain circumstances. However, more research might be needed to fully understand the impacts and how they may vary under different conditions.