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.
The value for seed purposes of tubers grown under a little mulch has been tested during two seasons at the experiment (Nebraska) station. In 1904 a plat of potatoes was mulched with straw and an adjoining plat was given careful cultivation. The soil of the two plats was practically uniform and the seed planted on the two plats was taken from the same lot of tubers. Seed was saved from the mulched and cultivated plats separately, kept under the same conditions during winter, planted on adjoining plats in the spring of 1905, and given identical cultivation during the summer. In 1906 the experiment was repeated with seed grown in mulched and in cultivated ground the year before. The same precautions were observed as in the first test. Uniform seed was used to start with in 1905. The seed saved from the mulched and from the cultivated plats was taken as it came, without selection, and was kept over winter under the same conditions. Both kinds of seed were cut in the same way, planted in the same way, on adjoining plats, and treated alike as regards tillage, spraying, etc. Under these conditions any constant differences in yield between the two plats must be ascribed to the effect of the methods of culture employed the previous season. The yields obtained from the mulched and from the cultivated seed were as follows: Cultivated seed, 384 pounds in 1905; mulched seed, 563 pounds in 1905; cultivated seed, 123 pounds in 1906; mulched seed, 174 pounds in 1906.
The use of seed that has been grown under a mulch the preceding year increased the yield of potatoes 47 per cent. in 1905 and 41 per cent. in 1906. If further tests confirm the results reported here it would seem that mulching might be used for the production of high-grade seed potatoes at home. Moreover, mulching usually results in increased yields if properly handled. Mulching potatoes on a large scale is, of course, impracticable, but most farmers could easily mulch enough of their potato field to produce the seed that they would require the following year, and in doing so they would not necessarily increase the cost of production per bushel."
The growing of Irish potatoes as a truck crop at the South has assumed large proportions," says L. C. Corbett, horticulturist in charge of Arlington Experimental Farm and Horticultural Investigations of the Bureau of Plant Industry, U. S. Department of Agriculture, in "Farmers' Bulletin 407." "Thousands of acres are annually planted to early varieties of potatoes which are harvested as soon as they have reached suitable size, regardless of their maturity, and immediately transported to Northern cities for distribution and consumption. This industry extends along the Atlantic seaboard from the southernmost terminals of railway transportation to the vicinity of the great centres of consumption, Florida producing a large annual crop of early potatoes, followed by Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey in turn. The great early-potato-producing sections of Florida are centred around Hastings; in Georgia the sections are largely confined to the vicinity of Savannah; in South Carolina a large acreage is cultivated in the trucking region about Charleston; in North Carolina a very extensive crop is planted in the vicinity of Wilmington; while Norfolk, Va., probably outclasses all other regions along the Atlantic coast so far as acreage and yield are concerned. This vicinity is one of the oldest and largest early-potato-producing sections of North America. Besides this belt of country devoted to this industry there are isolated regions along the Gulf coast and in northern Texas, Kentucky, and Missouri where potato growing has been established and has proved quite profitable.
It is impossible to give accurate statistics in regard to this crop, for it changes annually with the markets of the preceding year, those who engage in the industry, particularly in the West, being influenced very decidedly by the previous year's return. This is an exceedingly unfortunate condition, as the growers should determine their planting, not by their previous year's experience, but by the condition of the crop at the North. The crop of so-called winter potatoes produced at the North has more influence upon the price which will be received for the early crop than any other single factor. The truck farmer should therefore keep a very careful record of the crop at the North preceding the year his planting is to be done. The quantity, quality, and price of the held-over Northern crop are factors which decidedly influence the price of the new crop when it reaches the market. A market which is well stocked with old potatoes which have been kept in fairly good condition means a very low price for the early crop when it comes in competition with such stock. As this new crop cannot be retained long in the soil at the extreme South without rapid deterioration, neglect on the part of the owner to determine the quantity of old potatoes in sight at planting season, as compared with the normal supply, may mean a very meagre profit, if any, or a very heavy loss if the crop cannot be moved at the proper season at a very satisfactory price.
In growing early potatoes, perhaps more than any other single crop, the sources from which the seed is obtained influence the resulting crop. The practice which is almost universally followed is to plant tubers of early varieties which have been grown for several seasons at the North. The demand by truck farmers for Northern-grown seed has developed a very considerable industry in some of the potato-producing regions, notably Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Early varieties which are especially adapted to truck work at the South are in these Northern regions planted extensively for the purpose of producing seed to be used in the South. The crop is harvested and placed in storage houses either at the North or at the South, where it can be made available to the growers at the South early in the spring to meet the demand for seed for early planting.