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.
As Has been indicated elsewhere, the senior author spent the season of 1910 in Europe studying agriculture in general and potato methods in particular.
In the various countries of Europe he found the best growers using very advanced methods, while as in this country the average grower could greatly improve his operations to his own benefit and that of the industry.
In the ultimate analysis of the situation the principles which are responsible for the high yields are simple. They are the essentials of good farming everywhere in the world.
The fundamental reasons for the successes of the best growers of Europe may be all broadly classed as soil culture, but may be classified as follows:
1. Drainage - good, careful, effective farm drainage.
2. The keeping of livestock and the use of animal manures.
3. The use of fertilizers of all forms to make crops produce to the limit of fertility.
4. Seed selection, breeding and adaptation.
Preceding a description of impressions of British agriculture and potato growing by the senior author, is the following discussion of the situation in the United Kingdom by Walter P. Wright and Edward J. Castle, taken from their very clever book, "Pictorial Practical Potato Growing," and used with their permission and that of the publishers, Cassell & Co. of London:
Ireland has always taken more kindly to the potato than the other countries of the United Kingdom, and she still boasts a larger acreage devoted to this crop than England, Scotland, and Wales combined. From various causes, this acreage has, however, been steadily decreasing for some fifteen years, the decrease being chiefly accounted for by the emigration of potato growers, and changes introduced into the diet of the inhabitants. Still, in 1904, Ireland could boast of 618,540 acres devoted to potato growing, as against 570,209 acres owned by England, Scotland, and Wales. These figures showed a decrease for Ireland, and an increase for the rest of the kingdom, an increase which was augmented to 608,473 acres in 1905.
It is gratifying to know that efforts are being made to check the decrease in Ireland, chiefly by the production of very early potatoes for the English market, and of others suitable for seed purposes. Experiments in growing early potatoes on a small scale were made in Ireland in 1901, and proved so successful that each succeeding year has seen an increase in this direction. The climatic conditions of the west coast of Ireland seem exceptionally well fitted to the production of early potatoes, and there are not wanting experts to prophesy that Ireland may yet compete successfully with Jersey and St. Malo.
Map showing districts in Great Britain where there are prominent potato farms.
In the growing of seed potatoes, Irish prospects would seem to be particularly rosy, especially since Mr. J. F. Williamson, of Mallow, has demonstrated that Irish grown seed of the variety Duchess of Cornwall gives better returns than similar seed from other parts of the kingdom. Hitherto the great obstacle to the development of the Irish seed potato trade has been the dogged pertinacity with which the Irish growers adhere to their own type of potato - a type which finds little favor among English growers or consumers. With this obstacle removed, progress may well be expected to be rapid.
The type of potato, finding chief favor in Ireland is rather ungainly in shape, and possessed of very deep eyes, Champion and Black Skerry being two of the most popular varieties. Both of these cook like balls of flour, and are very white in the flesh, and flaky. As they are cooked and served in their skins in Ireland, shape and appearance matter little, the true criterion of a potato being its flavor. In England, however, where potatoes are generally peeled before cooking, shape is a great consideration, and the deep-eyed, Irish varieties have to yield pride of place to well-shapen, shallow-eyed varieties.
England is easily next to Ireland in the matter of potato growing, having about three times the area of land devoted to potatoes that Scotland has, and more than fifteen times as much as Wales. Moreover, the acreage of potatoes in England shows a steady increase, it having been 402,725 acres in 1903, 402,760 acres in 1904, and 434,773 acres in 1905. The average yield per acre is, however, slightly less in England than in Scotland, though more than in Ireland and Wales, the average of the ten years 1895-1904 being: Scotland, 5.90 tons; England, 5.84 tons; Wales, 5.36 tons, and Ireland, 3.83 tons per acre (a ton is thirty-seven-and one half bushels).
The bulk of English potatoes is grown in the counties of Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, and Cambridgeshire. In 1905 the following acreage was under potatoes in the respective counties: Lincoln, 79,564; Yorks, 57,364; Lancs, 47,697; Cheshire, 26,642; and Cambridge, 26,039. Lincolnshire is the centre of the English seed potato industry, and Lines seed potatoes have a reputation second only to the best Scottish. Cornwall, which has only an area of 4,822 acres devoted to potatoes, has generally the honor of placing the earliest English grown potatoes on the market. These follow the supply from the Channel Islands, the latter, however, being preceded by supplies from Malta and the Canary Islands. The Maltese potatoes reach our shores in November, and have recently become so popular that quite a flourishing trade has been built up.
In Scotland, the acreage of potatoes has rapidly increased, 144,265 acres being required for the crop of 1905, while 137,735 acres sufficed for that of 1904. This increase is mainly attributable to the enormous demand for Scottish seed potatoes, a demand created largely by the results of experiments conducted by scientists to determine the relative value of seed from various sources. But Scottish ware potatoes also hold their own against the world, the famous Dunbars frequently being quoted at 20s. ($4.80) per ton above all others. These tubers possess a remarkably bright and taking appearance, combined with high cooking quality, for which the peculiar kind of soil in which they are grown is deemed responsible."
The notes which follow were written by the senior author as he visited the various farms mentioned: