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.
Whatever claims may be pressed by other sections, it must be remembered that Greeley is one of the best known districts in the potato world.
The soils in their natural state were not comparable to some of the mountain plateaus and gulches, where grow the wild potatoes, in their adaptability to potato growing. Alfalfa growing and storage of water were necessary before potatoes could be produced to the amount of 10,000 carloads and upward per year.
There were no popple washes, leaf mould from mountain slopes or accumulation of dead grasses on the plains to furnish stored food for the crop. Cactus of short growth as a rule indicated those pliable rich loams containing granite sand as an enduring base for the welfare of the potato.
The soil, so rich in mineral elements, was deficient in humus, and it was not until alfalfa had been grown some years that any tonnage was produced except here and there. The breaking up of alfalfa at first gave an excess of humus in that it forced vine and early growth; the tubers set on and matured during the excessive heat of summer. An occasional run or two of river water at the right time gave heavy tonnage and indicated what was to be. It became plain that regulated supply of water must be served; that in this district late potatoes must be held back to make their tuber growth during cool weather.
Even though the first reservoirs of magnitude were completed by the farmers at a time to increase production - which found a light demand during the panic period of 1893 - yet the results were so satisfactory that the building of reservoirs has been continued ever since. Except in those districts where potatoes can be allowed to mature during the heat of the summer, or in those rare instances where the river supply is continuous, reservoirs are a necessity. Once potatoes have set on they must be kept moist so their growth be continuous. If arrested growth takes place and they are then watered the further development will be in the form of knobs that make rough potatoes.
Those who believe that potatoes must have an exactly suitable soil for successful culture should visit the Greeley district. Not only do the soils vary from heavy clay or adobe to sand, which need entirely different handling, but also the same fields that have raised potatoes for forty years in rotation with other crops are now handled in other ways than were formerly expedient. A rising water table due to pressure from irrigated lands at higher levels has necessitated more aeration by thorough cultivation of the soil.
Had we been told twenty years ago what was needed to raise good potatoes - brains and hard work - we likely would have quit right there, but we gradually grew into it and perfected the system which can best be studied in all its varieties in the Greeley district, where work is thorough and intense; varieties of potatoes studied for their particular adaptations, and the method of culture also made to fit the potato.
The growing of potatoes begins with seed growing or its purchase. The selection is only partly carried out before the seed is cut, and must continue through that process, rejecting everything that shows badly under the knife. The preparation of the ground has begun years before with the seeding of alfalfa to enrich it with manure, and by its root contents. When the specially built alfalfa plows turn the sod we are nearer the last end of potato growing than the beginning, for we have the seed selected and the medium in which it is to be grown full of stored fertility, the result of forethought. The good seed is planted at the right moment and the land is not allowed to rest, for the heavy horses in harrowing, leveling, and planting have compacted it too much and lack of air circulation breeds disease. The cultivators at once follow the march left by the planter and should run as deep as a plow sole stirring and aerating the soil.
From then on clean, absolutely clean, cultivation until the time when the ditches are put in to guide the water through the rows. The depth of these will vary according to the fall of the land, and what is known as the Kersey, a wooden mold-board ditcher, is much used. This has an attachment for distributing earth on top of the rows, to keep potatoes from frost and sun-scald. Just when the water and how much, whether in every other row or all, is something which every farmer must know for himself, for the time will vary according to the condition of the soil, altitude, and variety of potato, and it will also vary with the changing seasons.
Besides the remarkable energy of Greeley people in perfecting their system of potato growing and originating tools and methods of culture, something must also be credited to their system of storage and marketing. Probably nowhere else are such perfect potato cellars to be found upon the farms, or as convenient and large a supply of potatoes along the tracks which can be dispatched at a few hours' notice. Besides this, there is always a large number of cars the routing of which can be changed to meet urgent demands.
Many varieties of potatoes have been experimented with and discarded, and changes have only been made when a variety has thoroughly proved itself. The Early Rose gave way to the New York, Rural, or Carman group on heavy soils or those with a cool subsoil. Pearls in one form or another are a great standby. The Rose seedling, or, as it is sometimes called, the Greeley Red, fills the demand for red potatoes. The Early Late Ohios are also largely grown, and for all these there is a general score card of perfection in the grower's mind when he has an order to fill, which enables him to satisfy his customers."
There is no one in a district in closer touch with affairs than the dealer. I. Rothschild says:
There is planted this year (1911) 35,000 acres, and for the past eight years there have been planted 25,000 to 35,000 acres each year, the crop running from six to fourteen thousand carloads each year.