University of Idaho Extension

Managing Nutrients for Potato production

Nutrient management recommendations on this page are based on the Nutrient Management Guidelines for Russet Burbank Potatoes – University of Idaho Extension Bulletin #840. Refer to this publication for more information on nutrient management of Russet Burbank potatoes. For other varieties, see websites and articles listed below.

Effective management of nutrients is critical for potato production, as tuber yield and tuber quality are directly impacted by quantity and timing of nutrient applications. Potatoes have high nutrient demands, as they require approximately 220 lb nitrogen (N), 30 lb phosphorus (P), and 300 lb potassium (K) per acre to produce a  450 cwt./acre yield of Russet Burbanks, a typical yield for Southern Idaho. Potatoes take up 40-50% of N and K prior to tuber bulking and 50-60% during tuber bulking, which makes in-season applications of the extremely mobile N a necessity for high yielding potato production (figure 1).

Figure 1. Total plant N, P, K, and S uptake during three years of field trials at Aberdeen.

Research studies conducted in Southern Idaho were used to validate and refine the total season N fertilizer recommendations presented in Table 1. The recommendations assume an average of 60 pounds N/acre of mineralized N, which is accounted for in Table 1. Additional adjustments should be made for fields that  1) have existing grain, straw, or corn stalk residue, 2) are following alfalfa, 3) have received manure applications, or 4) have a very sandy soil texture. Also, it is recommended that one-half to three-forths of the total seasonal N supply should be applied preplant, with the remaining applications during tuber bulking, depending on soil type.

Table 1. Total N recommendations for Russet Burbank potatoes.

Soil test
NO3-N + NH4-N
(0-12 inch) (ppm)
Potential yield (cwt/acre)
300 400 500 600
-----------------------------lb N/acre-----------------------------
0 200 240 280 320
5 180 220 260 300
10 160 200 240 280
15 140 180 220 260
20 120 160 200 240
25 100 140 180 220

One of the most commonly used methods for determining in-season nitrogen application timing and quantity is the sampling of the petiole from the fourth leaf from the top of the plant. Petiole sampling begins at tuber initiation and continues on a weekly basis throughout most of the tuber growth period.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Photos courtesy of International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) unless otherwise noted.


Nitrogen deficiency in potatoes. Taken in Parma, ID. July, 2012. Amber Moore, University of Idaho.




Mild phosphorus deficiency on potato (Phos\Pota01P.jpg): PPI #020160 (IPNI).



Potassium deficiency on potato, Idaho (Potash\Pato02K.jpg): PPI #010236 (IPNI).



Sulfur deficiency in potato. Deficiency present in a potato crop growing on volcanic soils of the highlands of Ecuador (IPNI).



Iron deficiency on potato (Iron\Pota01Fe.jpg); PPI #060449 (IPNI).


MgDefpotato                                      Mgdefsymptslide

From The Diagnosis of Mineral Deficiencies in Plants by Visual Symptoms by Thomas Wallace, M.C., D.Sc.,A.I.C. Copyright.


Mndefpotato                                        Mndefpotatoslide

From The Diagnosis of Mineral Deficiencies in Plants by Visual Symptoms by Thomas Wallace, M.C., D.Sc.,A.I.C. Copyright.


Copper toxicity in potato plant taken in greenhouse setting. Kimberly, ID. June, 2012. Photo taken by Amber Moore, University of Idaho.


Relevant Publications

Nutrient requirements for specific potato varieties

Cull potatoes as nutrient sources

Garden potatoes

Nitrogen and potatoes

Phosphorus and potatoes

Potassium and potatoes

Copper and potatoes

Nutrient requirements of potatoes

Organic potato production

Manure and potatoes