Spuds - Under Organic Mulch vs. in the Soil

Final Report for FNE00-295

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2000: $1,265.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Sue Cosgrove
LeeJun Farm
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Project Information


Note to readers, attached is a complete final report for FNE00-295

This project will compare potato production when planted conventionally in the soil and when planted under organic mulch on top of the soil. Labor, time, yield, and the incidence of wireworm damage will be compared to determine if this labor-intensive crop can be grown more efficiently.


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  • Tom McCutcheon


Materials and methods:

Potato production can be a labor-intensive endeavor for the small grower lacking specialized mechanization. This grower compared the common commercial practice of growing potatoes to an alternate technique that she suspected may require less labor. The common practice is to plant in trenches, hill twice with soil as plants grow, and then dig to harvest. The alternate technique being tested by this farmer was to set seed on the soil surface and cover it with hay and grass clippings, replenish the mulch cover at the same time as the hilling, and rake aside the mulch to harvest. The grower used four different potato varieties as in-ground and mulch, two times in the field. She recorded labor hours, wireworm damage, and yields.

Research results and discussion:

The mulch technique of potato growing required less than half the labor as compared with the in-ground method. The average number of tubers with wireworm damage from the mulched plots was less than 40% of the number damaged from the in-ground plots. The average yield was about 6% less from the mulched plots than from the in-ground planting. Different varieties performed differently: ‘Green Mountain’ yielded greater than ‘Kennebec,’ ‘Carola,’ and ‘Dark Red Norland’ from the mulched plots. In the in-ground plots, ‘Kennebec’ yielded slightly more than ‘Green Mountain,’ ‘Carola,’ and ‘Dark Red Norland.’

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.