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.
Southern Idaho soil has demonstrated that it contains the elements required to make deliciously flavored potatoes, especially where the quality of water applied is under absolute control, as with irrigation.
Potatoes grow best in a mellow, deep, easily worked, rich soil, one that does not bake and is well drained. Soils classed as sandy loam and volcanic ash are excellent. Drainage is important, as the water table should be at least three feet below the surface. With the gradual but marked fall of the Twin Falls North Side tract to the south and west toward the Snake River, and the numerous draws and coulees, it is one of the best drained tracts of land in the world.
A light, fine soil is easily worked. It responds more quickly to culture, and the potatoes at digging time come out clean and free from dirt, and keep better. Soil and crop experts, without exception, class the soils on the Twin Falls North Side tract as perfect for the growing of potatoes. It is chemically right, and has produced crops that have never been equalled in quality anywhere. The tubers grown in it are smooth, clear skinned, contain a high per centage of solid matter, are firm, of excellent flavor, and when dry come out of the ground as clean as new dollars from the mint. Besides that, the yield per hill and per acre is very-large.
The principal shipping points in this territory are Idaho Falls, American Falls, Rupert, Burley, Turn Falls, Buhl, Jerome, Wendell, Gooding, Bliss, Mountain Home, Pampa, Boise, Caldwell, Payette, and Weiser - all in Idaho.
In the Burley potato contest in 1910, L. A. and W. L. Snyder of Twin Falls, Idaho, won the first prize of $500. The production on one acre was 38,685 pounds gross weight. The weight of culls was 4,150 pounds, making 34,535 pounds, or 575 1/2 bushels, of marketable potatoes. The variety was Dalmeny Challenge.
Following is the story of how the first prize potatoes were grown, as told by the growers:
It will be necessary to give a brief account of our previous experience and observations along this line in order to impress upon the farmer the fact that he can do equally as well if he will use his powers of observation and a little study along with his work.
We partly owe our success to attending farmers' institutes and demonstration trains, and making a study of the different farmers' bulletins and articles on potato culture by E. H. Grubb and others. We do not mean to infer that we followed any set rules, but whenever we read an article we always compared it with our methods and acted accordingly; so that in reading this, all we expect the farmer to do is to compare it with his conditions and methods. We are confident that our record will be broken within a year or two, still we are pleased to be the first to prove it possible on our soils.
We came to the Twin Falls tract in the fall of 1905 and have raised a few potatoes each year since. Our first experience was with mixed runout seed, and it kept getting worse each year. We had about decided to quit the potato business when Mr. Grubb shipped in some seed from his farm in Colorado in the spring of 1908. In this car were Red and White Peachblow, Dalmeny Challenge, and Dalmeny Beauty potatoes. The Peachblow had been grown in Colorado for years, while the Challenge and Beauty were imported from Scotland two years previous by Mr. Grubb. We sold our run-out stock at 70 cents per 100 pounds and bought some of this seed at $2.80 per 100; and can say that it was the best investment we ever made in the potato line. The crops raised from this seed were superior in quality and yield; still the yield was far from what was claimed for them in Scotland. In the fall of 1909 we had one patch which yielded 430 bushels per acre. This crop was raised on sagebrush land, which had been cropped twice, but had had a light manuring.
By this time we were curious to see what we could do on alfalfa land. So in the fall of 1909 we 'crowned' four acres of alfalfa as shallow as possible, plowing with sharp plows to cut alfalfa crowns. This alfalfa was planted in the spring of 1906. The first two years (including the summer of 1906) it was cut for hay, the next year it was pastured by hogs, about ten head per acre, and the next year it was again cut for hay. We had intended to harrow the crowns to the surface, but we had a wet spell and a freeze immediately after and as a consequence all the crowns were alive next spring.
When the Burley prize was offered last spring (1910) we decided to enter this contest. We entered for several reasons. In the first place there was nothing to lose; there was a great opportunity to learn by comparing our methods with those of the winner; and, again, there was a chance to win. In trying to decide how to proceed in order to get the best results, a great many questions confronted us, as for instance: How much manure can we apply without getting scab? How close can we plant without sacrificing the size of the potato and the yield? What size seed will give the best results? How is it possible to get a perfect stand? Realizing that the practical educational value of the contest would be lost, so far as a yield crop was concerned, if the winner did all the work by hand on a single acre, we decided to use horses and machinery in all our operations.
In order to break the crust which had formed over the field during the winter we used a double-action disk harrow, which always leaves the surface level, being a marked improvement over the ordinary disk-harrow. This was followed with a drag harrow and was harrowed several times at intervals of one week. By the time we were ready to plow nearly all the alfalfa was dead. All this disking and narrowing had thoroughly mixed the manure with the soil, and had created a dust mulch over the field. Being afraid of scab, we had only applied twelve loads of manure per acre. This was put on in the spring while we were killing the alfalfa. Being so thoroughly mixed with the soil and plowed under so deep, we had no scab, and could have applied more and still have been safe so far as scab was concerned. Before plowing we corrugated and irrigated. We did this for several reasons: First, to help get a better stand; second, • to carry the crop as long as possible without any further irrigation, as we have found that the longer the plants can grow and develop without needing any further irrigation the better the results; third, to cause the manure to rot and get in a shape that the plants could use; fourth, to supply enough moisture so that the soil would pack (not bake) after it was plowed. It is always better to irrigate before plowing, as the plowing replaces the air that the water has driven out.