This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
In The history of the potato there are occasional references to Chiloe. The senior author and Luther Burbank are planning to go there soon to study conditions.
The following information has been secured through the kindness of Secretary James Wilson of the United States Department of Agriculture, and Alfred A. Winslow, American Consul, Valparaiso, Chile.
It is generally understood here that the Island of Chiloe, Chile, is the home of the potato and that it was found there by Pedro Valdivia's expedition in the first half of the fifteenth century, where they were known by the natives as Poni. At that time potatoes served as the principal food of the Indians, who cultivated them to some extent, and where they are still cultivated in a very crude way.
The Chiloe Archipelago is situated off the west coast of Chile between 42 and 46 degrees south latitude, and is composed of many islands of which the largest, Chiloe, is about 100 miles long by 38 miles wide and covers about 2,450 square miles, with a population of about 40,500 persons, mostly Indians or half-breeds.
The farms vary from 50 to 500 or 600 acres, but the island is covered with a dense forest, save where small patches have been cleared for cultivation, scarcely ever exceeding fifty acres in area, and the potato patches rarely exceed six to eight acres. According to the best information I have been able to get, no machinery is used in the cultivation of potatoes further than a very crude plow and a spade or hoe. They are planted in rows at irregular distances varying from eighteen inches to three feet apart. On the larger farms the seed is generally planted by dropping whole potatoes into the furrow at distances of from eighteen to twenty-four inches, and covered by dragging a split log over the surface with the face down, or by plowing a furrow on either side of the row.
As a general rule they are cultivated only once, and then when they are three to four inches high. The weeds are cut out with a hoe or spade, when they are left to take care of themselves until it is thought best to dig them, which may be at any time after they mature until the following spring.
There are many varieties of potatoes grown in Chiloe, although no special attention is paid to this matter. Each farmer may have his own variety, since no attention is paid to changing seed, for varieties do not seem to run out as at home. I am told that the same variety is planted on the same land year after year, by father and son, without deterioration. No special attention is given to the selection of seed, and still fine potatoes are grown from year to year.
In general the potatoes are dug by turning the row over with a plow drawn by a yoke of oxen, and the ground poked around with a crooked stick. Of course in this way many are left in the ground, but this makes but little difference, since they are very prolific, and easily raised.
No special attention is given to storing potatoes in that country. They are generally stored by the producer in a building with a ground floor on a level with the surface of the ground quite open to the air. There are no cellars in that part of Chile.
There is no way of ascertaining the yield per acre, the cost of production, nor the profit per acre, since no account of such things is kept.
Potatoes are sold in Chiloe Island by the producer, both to the consumer and the dealer, who may be a grocer, baker, butcher, generally merchant - in fact, almost every business house handles them."