Comparison of Methods for Growing Potatoes on Market Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $13,242.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2020
Grant Recipient: Johnson Farm
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Scott Johnson
Low Technology Institute

Information Products


  • Agronomic: potatoes


  • Crop Production: cropping systems
  • Pest Management: mulches - general

    Proposal summary:

    Potatoes are one of the most productive plants per area. They grow in poor soils and provide complete nutrition. Ancient and modern growers have devised strategies to maximize yield and simplify growing. Unfortunately these methods have not been subject to comparative study to separate the serious from the gimmicky.

    This study will evaluate the relative performance of five small- to medium-scale, growing methods: trenching (control), straw mulch, newspaper mulch, container bag, and potato tower. Each of the ten participants will cultivate potatoes holding all other variables constant: fertilizer, mulch, water, sun, plot size, and type and amount of seed potatoes. Data, segregated by method and collected throughout the season, will include labor, materials costs, weeding, yield, and local soil composition and weather.

    The outcomes of this study will support sustainable agricultural practices for market-scale farmers. By identifying high-yielding methods, we reduce the amount of inputs (water, fertilizer, labor, and materials) needed to grow a larger crop each year and increase profits over less-productive methods. By tracking the labor as well as yield, we can reduce the sometimes back-breaking work of harvesting and cleaning potatoes. Finally, this information will be of interest to anybody who grows potatoes, not just market farmers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Identify five different potato-growing methods and recruit ten study participants.
    2. Evaluate effectiveness of each method through side-by-side field trials in ten different locations.
    3. Share results through website, social media, conference presentations, and articles submitted to trade publications.
    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.