Characteristics | Management Profile


Tubers have a long dormancy and should be warmed for several days before planting. Whole or cut seed-pieces may be used but should be at least 2 ounces in weight. Eyes are uniformly distributed so blind pieces should not exist unless pieces are too small. Spacing for their typical markets, frying and baking, should be wide, over 12 inch and 15 inch is not uncommon to produce large tubers over 14 ounce.

FERTILIZATION -- (Key references are Stark, J., Westermann, D., and Hopkins, B. 2004. Nutrient Management Guidelines for Russet Burbank Potatoes. Univ. Idaho Extension Bulletin # 840, and Lewis, R.J. and Love, S.L. 1994. Potato genotypes differ in petiole nitrate-nitrogen concentrations over time. HortScience 29:175-179.)

In general, recommendations for Russet Burbank fertilization are that phosphorus should be from 320 lb P2O5/acre (= 140 lb P/acre) without residual nor lime and potassium should be over 600 lb K2O/acre (= 500 lb K/acre) in the absence of residual. Actual amounts to be applied depends on soil test results and yield goal. For good yields, 30 to 40 lb sulfur/a is recommended. But, sulfur (200-400 lb ammonium sulfate/acre) applied in-furrow is suggested for common scab control (Pavlista, A.D. 2005. Agronomy Journal 97:599-603). There is little need to add micro-nutrients in most cases but check actual soil levels.

Nutrient Uptake -- About half of the total nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) used by the plant will be taken up by early bulking; for phosphorus (P) and sulfur (S), about a third is taken up by then. The rest is taken up during the bulking period and none is taken up during tuber maturation. To achieve yields of 400 to 500 cwt/acre, plants take up 200 to 240 lb N/a, 25 to 35 lb P/a, 280 to 320 lb K/a, 18 to 24 lb S/a, 50 lb Calcium (Ca)/a, and 40 lb magnesium (Mg)/a. Potato plants also take up some iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu) and boron (B).

Nitrogen -- Recommendations for Russet Burbank N fertilization is about 280 lb/acre to achieve a yield goal of 500 cwt/a. However, it should not all be applied at starter or early in the season as this has an adverse effect on tuber quality. Stark et al. (2004) recommend that on sands about a quarter should be added pre-plant, on sandy loam about a third and on silt loam closer to half. Early season application does not adversely effect the timing of tuberization. Recommendations for Nitrogen application suggest applying about one-third pre-plant and the rest applied through the sprinkler system at a rate of about 15 to 20 lb N/acre per application throughout the season and should end at least one month prior to vine desiccation. Normally, nitrogen added during the tuber bulking period does not seem to adversely affect growth; however a large excess can reduce yields. A lack of N during this period will induce growth defects in tubers such as knobby, pointy and dumbbell shapes. Late-season nitrogen application may cause problems with vine desiccation and its ability to be stored.

Russet Burbank sufficient nitrogen range



Under sprinkler irrigation, supplemental nitrogen may be added from emergence to late-bulking following recommendations based on nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in petioles. Russet Burbank has a relatively low petiole nitrate-N need to correspond with optimal nitrogen fertilization and yield, for instance, Russet Burbank's need is 2,000 to 4,000 ppm nitrate-N lower than that for Ranger Russet. At Parma and Kimberly, ID, in 1993, the "sufficiency nutrient range" (SNR) for Russet Burbank, when nitrogen was added all pre-plant or when it was split applied equally as a starter plus three later applications, was 15,000 to 16,000 ppm at 55 days after planting and drops to about 6,000 ppm at tuber maturation (125 days after planting). See accompanying Figure. High petiole nitrate-nitrogen concentrations, greater than 22,000 ppm at three weeks after emergence may be associated with decreased yields.

[Note: SNR is the minimum to maximum nitrate concentration that should be present in petioles at different stages of the crop's growth. Petiole nitrate levels outside this range indicate a potential loss of tuber quality such as shape defects and sugar ends.


The irrigation interval for Russet Burbank at maximum evapo-transpiration is three days. The cultivar has poor drought tolerance and poor heat tolerance. Moisture stress, especially at the onset of bulking, will result in long, skinny and mis-shaped tubers. Water stress in late bulking or during tuber maturation will increase the incidence of internal black spot at harvest. The tuber is susceptible to dehydration.


Russet Burbank is a long season cultivar and the average time from planting to vine kill is 120 days. Since it is an indeterminate cultivar, vines will not die naturally and will die only if desiccated, shredded or frozen. Chemical vine desiccation often requires two applications due to the large, growing vine. Adequate skin set takes two to three weeks depending on market.


Russet Burbank stores well for a long time period. It has a long dormancy and can be stored at 45 F for five months without applied sprout inhibitors. Internal black spot (IBS) can be a serious problem due to handling. If immature tubers are harvested and skinning a problem, tuber early blight may be prevalent.