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.
Notwithstanding this fact, the yields in the Cornell experiments have been much above the average each year. This was as true of 1898 as of previous years, in spite of the additional fact that the latter season was one of severe drought and the soil used in the experiments ' is gravelly and porous and especially subject to injurious effects from drought.'
It is probable that frequent and deep plowing has done much to bring and keep the land productive. So far as the plowing is concerned all plats have received the same treatment. The land has been turned from two to three times each year, and the pulverizing which has resulted therefrom has liberated sufficient plant food to mature large crops. In addition to the plowing the land has been frequently harrowed and cultivated and the intensive culture which has been given has liberated all the plant food that could be used by the growing crops with the amount of moisture that was present.
A fact clearly brought out by these experiments is that ' success with potatoes depends largely upon the preparation given the soil before the potatoes are planted. Plowing should be deep, and at the time of planting the soil should be mellow and loose.'
Only first-class marketable potatoes should be used for seed. These should be cut into pieces averaging two strong eyes. 'Seed should not be cut for any considerable period before planting. If it becomes necessary to delay planting for some considerable time after potatoes are cut, the cut pieces should be dusted with plaster and spread out in a moderately moist, cool place.'
Early planting has usually given best results, but this necessitates careful spraying with Bordeaux mixture and Paris, green to protect the plants from diseases and insects. Early and deep planting and frequent and level tillage are especially important in soils like that used in these experiments, which are likely to be seriously affected by drought.
The methods of planting and cultivation used at the Cornell station in 1898 were as follows: 'The pieces were dropped in the furrows directly after the furrows had been opened, one piece being put in a place and at distances fourteen inches apart in the row. A furrow was opened (with a shovel plow) in the middle of the space left when the first furrows were opened. This served to cover the potatoes, the earth being ridged up directly over the potato row. The planting was done on May 10th. The soil was then left undisturbed until May 28th. The ridges which were left over the seed potatoes covered them to a depth of about eight inches. By May 28th the weed seeds which were in the surface soil had germinated and the whole surface was covered with tiny weeds. A spike-tooth harrow was fitted with a piece of 2 x 4 scantling placed diagonally across underneath the frame and held in place by the harrow teeth. The harrow thus rigged was used upon the potato plats, being first run lengthwise of the rows and then crosswise. The weight of the driver upon the harrow was necessary in order to make it do the leveling as required. The benefit derived from this treatment was very marked. All weeds were destroyed, the surface crust was broken, all clods and stones were removed from above the row and deposited in the centre of the space between rows, the surface was leveled, and in every way the conditions were made favorable for the rapid growth of the potatoes, and they appeared above ground in three or four days.
In general it may be said that 'on soils which are not well drained, either naturally or artificially, and on clay or clay loam soils, potatoes may be planted somewhat shallow and slight hilling may be practised with benefit.'
If planting is done very early in the spring the ridges may be permitted to remain for ten days to two weeks before harrowing down. If planting is done somewhat late the ridges should be harrowed within one week after planting. In the case of the early planting there is usually enough moisture present so that the ridging may temporarily prove a benefit by enabling the soil to become warm. In the case of late planting all the moisture should be conserved, and this is best done by leveling the ridges.
Harrowing the soil before the plants appear above ground, followed by from six to seven cultivations during the season, is recommended."
Thoroughness and care are qualities that must be given attention in seed-bed preparation and seeding, for with these operations well done the crop is well on its way toward success.