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For maximum calories and protein, plant potatoes.

Grown in 130 nations, potatoes are a key crop in the world's diet. (Only corn is grown in more countries.)

The edible dry matter of potatoes accounts for a larger volume of the world's food consumption than fish and meat combined.

Potatoes produce more calories and protein than any other food crop, per unit of land and time invested.

An acre of land--even in "underdeveloped" agricultural situations--can produce more than 10,000 lbs. of potatoes.

Potatoes store for up to six months, and unlike most grains, require no processing (other than cooking) for storage or eating.

Potatoes will grow in a wide variety of conditions, from sea level to 13,000 feet, even on soil fairly low in nutrients.--from The Cultivar, Agroecology Program newsletter of the Univ. of California Santa Cruz

In the same issue of The Cultivar, UCSC student Dave Hollingsworth described his potato variety trial. He grew 11 types of potatoes--three commercial and eight "specialty"; and he planted 3-4 oz. whole potatoes, sets (whole potatoes cut into 3-4 oz. chunks), and spud buds (miniature tubers). And he applied biointensive organic growing methods to the crop.

Only quality, undamaged seed was used: injuries on a tuber increase the chance of infection. The potatoes were planted in trenches 10 inches deep, and covered with four inches of a soil/compost mix. The compost helped hold moisture and lessened the need for watering before the plants emerged. "Fewer waterings at this early stage give the plants a better chance against a number of potato diseases, including blackleg," he said.

When he did begin watering, he did it at mid-day. This allowed the plants to dry off by night, and, helped avoid such problems as late blight, which thrives in wet conditions.

As the plants grew, they were hilled up with the soil removed to form the trenches. Any diseased leaves were removed, and the rest of the vegetation was covered, leaving only the top few leaves above ground.

Close spacing of the plants (12-14 inches for the larger varieties, 10 for the smaller) created a thick canopy of vegetation that controlled weeds.

The results?

Overall, the specialty varieties produced as heavily as the commercial types. Bintje produced 4.3 lbs. per foot of row.

Smaller finger varieties, Rose Fir and Rose Crescent, yielded only 1.2 and 2.3 lbs. per foot of row, but were the most popular in an informal taste test by Agroecology Program members. Hollingsworth thinks these smaller varieties could be planted closer together--maybe eight inches--to increase yield per land area. He also pointed out that organically grown specialty "gourmet" potatoes sell for a dollar or more a pound.

In this trial, the seed potatoes produced larger crops than either sets or spud buds. Red Pontiac seed potatoes produced 65 percent more than Red Pontiac spud buds.

RELATED ARTICLE: Potatoes like phosphorus

Good potato harvests require plenty of phosphorus. The usual sources for organic gardeners are bone meal or rock phosphate. Use about 3 pounds of bone meal or 6 pounds of rock phosphate per 100 square feet, preferably in the fall before planting next year's crop.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:tips on planting potatoes
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Words:521
Previous Article:Increase yields with intensive gardening.
Next Article:For warming soil, clear plastic mulch beats black.
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