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.
Following this is a second crop to be grazed off by the cattle for fall and winter pasture. This is the result of feeding the soil with liquid manure from the cow barns. It is sprinkled over the meadows from time to time with an apparatus something like a street sprinkler. If this land is kept in grass, say, for three years, it will grow potatoes continuously, year after year, almost indefinitely. Potatoes are often followed with tomatoes. I saw one ten-acre tract the potatoes from which had been harvested in May. On the 6th of July 13,500 tomato plants per acre were in bloom and setting tomatoes. They would give $600 to $700 an acre as a second crop. Often, after the potatoes are harvested, the land is 'immediately sown to Italian rye grass for the cows. This gives them the turf and splendid root system of the rye grass to feed the land for the next year's potato crop.
I saw this big sixty-acre farmer, the sixth of July, digging, sorting and putting away his seed for the next year's cropping. The potatoes were lifted by hand with forks; women were picking out by hand the most perfect potatoes for seed stocks and placing them in boxes to be stored in their stone storage houses. They were put in boxes about three inches deep, and were sorted to size. Nothing is wasted on the Jersey Islands. A potato no larger than a hazel-nut is picked up and used for something.
Three bushels of corn (it looks like American corn) were sown over the field before the potatoes were dug so that the digging of the potatoes would cover the seed three or four inches deep. This grows and is used for pasture and forage for cattle and horses. It is also an aid in feeding the land as a cover crop for the next year's potato growing. They did not lose one hour's time in the use of the land. This corn would be up in four or five days and making rapid growth.
The soil is a disintegrated granite formation.
Sometimes immediately after harvesting the potatoes they sow the land down to rye grass and clover, and leave it two years. They use it for hay and grazing, sometimes both. The first year after breaking sod they use no barnyard manure; the second and third years they use all the barnyard manure they can secure, twenty-five or thirty tons if possible, with a ton of commercial fertilizer additional to the acre.
They usually spray two to five times during the growing season. The best farmers always spray five times, and they always secure a full crop. I saw two fields adjoining. The conditions were the same. One was sprayed five times and the owner expected a yield of thirteen tons to the acre or more, while the field alongside, sprayed twice, was completely burned up with blight. There was nothing but the black stalks left standing. It costs about $1.25 to spray each time, and the work is always done by hand, as they cannot use horses in their closely planted fields.
Their system of using partially grown seed is practically the same as in the early potato-growing districts of England and Scotland. Saving seed in June for the next year's planting is a very serious problem. It must be held over during their warm months of summer and fall, and sprouting retarded so as to have the seed in good condition for planting the next February.
Owing to their close planting they require from 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of seed to the acre. They never cut seed.
These potato growers were very much excited on reading the Orchard Heating Bulletin, published by D. E. Burley, general passenger agent of the Oregon Short Line Railroad. This bulletin tells how fruit is saved from frost by the use of heating pots in the orchard. They think frost protection will be very valuable in enabling them to put their potatoes on the city markets of Europe two to four weeks earlier than they ever have before.
I hope to see their great money-making methods for the production of early potatoes adopted in the Sacramento Valley and elsewhere in California. The days of sunshine here are much more favorable for the crop than the chilly winds off the sea on the Jersey Islands, where in the month of July I was not uncomfortable with winter clothing, and where I saw many people wearing their coats in the middle of the day.
The unit of weight which is used in the marketing of farm crops in Jersey is known as the cabot. This is forty pounds. Their potatoes are marketed in willow baskets or small barrels. The potatoes are sold to the dealers in willow baskets. The dealer barrels them. It takes a quarter of a million barrels to handle the potatoes of this little island. The barrels are returned from the markets daily.
There are large numbers of glass houses for growing vegetables and crops of all kinds. This gives winter employment and income.
The amount of wheat and oats that grows on this granite soil is wonderful. Much of it was higher than my head and very thick on the ground, and there was not one place where the straw was weak enough to make it lodge. It had the strongest, stiffest straw I have ever seen. They told me the wheat would give an average of sixty-nine bushels to the acre. It did surely look as though no more could grow on an acre, and I have seen upward of seventy-five bushels in the irrigated West.
Referring again to the fertilizing, the Agricultural Society of the island gives prizes for the best conducted and appointed farm. The first requisite in the scale of points, in a total of sixty, is farm buildings, manure and liquid manure tank, five points; if neat and compact, five additional points. There are eighteen other factors for consideration in awarding the prize.
Shiploads of guano and commercial fetilizer are imported and used; great quantities of turf, roots, and cover crops are incorporated in the soil, and every bit of animal manure is conserved. Manure is used at the rate of twenty to twenty-five tons when they have it. That does not mean sticks, fire fanged, coarse manure and straw, but well-rotted barnyard manure which has the consistency of well-ripened sugar-beet pulp.
Their humid, cloudy, sunless climate makes a splendid environment for disease such as blight.
As a plow maker I have contended that it was nearly impossible to make a moldboard plow that would do good work over twelve inches deep, but on the Jersey Island I saw moldboard plows that plowed an eleven-inch furrow, eighteen inches deep and turned it well. The moldboard was twenty-six inches deep, with a strong steel beam and a pair of ordinary wagon wheels for a front truck to regulate the width and depth of the furrow. It required ten heavy horses to handle it with the turf and manure that was plowed under. A farmer can imagine what a nest or bed this aerated, fertilized soil would make for the root system of the potato or any other vegetable crop. It also makes a fine storehouse for moisture and heat.
On one farm the crop of potatoes from ten acres sold for $10,450. Of course, this was a very extreme case, for the potatoes sold for eight cents a pound, or $180 a ton. The man farming this land said it would readily rent for $250 an acre on nineteen-year leasehold. The man who gave me this information is a leading representative tenant farmer. He told me that he made annually 180 barrels of apple cider and consumed it all on the farm. When he saw me drawing a long breath he led me to the storage cellar and I saw the tanks. He said there was no other beverage used on the farm for his family or help, and I saw great pitchers and mugs of it in the fields where he had thirty men at work.
A great deal of labor is imported from France during potato harvest, the total annual outlay for this item being $75,000 to $90,000.
The following very interesting account of the Channel Islands potato industry is from "Pictorial Practical Potato Growing," by Walter P. Wright and Edward J. Castle*
The Channel Islands, as being British territory, and supplying us with our first early potatoes in bulk, are entitled to a little consideration here. Guernsey and Jersey are the chief islands concerned in the potato trade, the bulk of the Guernsey crop being raised under glass Jersey has also taken up glass culture to some extent, but still relies almost solely upon outdoor crops. These are grown everywhere - by roadsides, on railway platform gardens, on the slopes of valleys so steep that one wonders how the soil keeps in position, and even up to the very walls of Jersey's most famous 'lion,' Mount Orgueil Castle. "Digging begins in the more favored parts, such as L'Etac and St. Aubyn's, at the end of April, an army of Breton peasants, with their wives and families, being imported for the purpose. The potatoes are packed in barrels, and taken to the one Jersey port, St. Heliers, whence they are shipped to England. Prices fluctuate enormously even in a single day, but the returns have averaged some £400,000 ($2,000,000) for several years past. The variety grown is the old International Kidney, raised nearly forty years ago by Mr. Robert Fenn, and in its day the leading exhibition variety."