Call for Study Participants — Potato Growing

The institute will be assisting with an agricultural study in 2018. Please see below and get in contact with Scott if interested.

Study Summary

TatersPotatoes 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 the growing process. Unfortunately these methods have not been studied comparatively to separate the serious from the gimmicky.

This proposed study will pay participants to grow potatoes using five different techniques while holding other variables (sunlight, moisture, fertility, variety, etc.) constant. Results will include yield, labor, and other observations.

Study Details

The grant proposal is currently being written. What follows is the first draft and the details are subject to change. Participants are encouraged to make suggestions to improve this study design and will be notified of final grant details.

Nine growers recruited from market gardeners around the Madison, Wisconsin, area will participate in this study, which will be organized by the tenth participant, Scott Johnson. Each participant will set aside five neighboring 8-×-8-ft plots with full sun. Each plot’s soil will be characterized and recorded. Johnson will gather supplies and distribute them to each grower in mid-April. The potato variety grown will be decided by a vote among participants. Organic methods and materials will be used.

The five methods will consist of a control (fertilized trench, hilled throughout growing season), straw-covered (potatoes on fertilized surface covered with straw mulch), bags (55-lb grain bags filled with straw, compost, and soil as plant grows), ‘tater-tire analog (wooden frames added and filled with straw, soil, and compost as plant grows), and one more technique to be voted on by participants from their own suggestions. Each plot will receive 20 seed potatoes, three bags of organic compost, and two bales of straw for mulch.

Johnson will assist each grower with planting and installation to insure uniformity among participants. Growers will water, weed, and otherwise care for the plants as needed. Every two weeks growers will send a one- to two-sentence update to Johnson regarding any observations as well as a photo of each plot and their hours worked. In September, Johnson will visit each participant to assist with harvesting and weighing the potatoes. The growers will report their experiences with each growing method. Participants will keep any yield and be paid for all tracked hours. The grant application will stipulate a rate of $20 with an estimated 25 hrs of work for season with a maximum of 35 hrs.

How to Participate

Potential participants should be market gardeners (or others who grow 100 lb + of potatoes annually) who have a 8-×-40-ft area in full sun. If you would like to be considered, please provide a 3–4 sentence paragraph indicating your experience (i.e., describe farm, years of growing experience, market-selling experience, etc.). Also provide your name, business’s name, phone number, email, and website (if applicable).

Please list your top three varieties of late potatoes to grow. Please describe your favorite method of growing potatoes and indicate if you have experience with unusual growing methods.

The deadline for providing all of this information is November 30, 2017.

Interested growers should contact the study organizer at scott@lowtechinstitute.org or 608-886-9584 with any questions.


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