Cultivation/Production, Research

US: Healthier soil for the sake of larger spud crop

Until the 1970s, Maine potato farmers were some of the most productive in the world, growing thousands of pounds more per acre than the rest of the United States. Since then, though, Maine’s potato yields have remained pretty much flat, at about 300 hundredweight (or 30,000 pounds) per acre. Meanwhile, in Idaho, Washington and other major potato growing states, yields have consistently increased from less than 200 hundredweight per acre in the years after World War II to around 400 hundredweight today. “We’ve had the same or better work with genetics, diseases, fertility and so forth, but we really haven’t realized the benefits,” said Tony Jenkins, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Maine state resource conservationist. “The soils are maxed out.” Jenkins was among several researchers and farmers at a recent soil health field day in Presque Isle, organized by the Central Aroostook Conservation and Water District, which is working to share best practices in soil management that can increase yields and reduce fertilizer pollution. More

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