Monday, June 17, 2013

Othello: Potato Farming

My Dad's primary crop when we were in Othello was potatoes.  He raised other crops, (including sugar beats, corn, alfalfa) but potatoes was his staple.

Othello was the leading producer of potatoes in the state of Washington. This article is from the Othello Outlook 1962
6/21:  Othello Largest Potato Shipper
At the meeting of the Washington State Potato Committee held in Yakima June 15, 1962 it was revealed that Othello produced more potatoes than any other shipping point in Washington for the 1961 crop. ..
However potato farming was risky.  The Othello Outlook mentioned a couple things to look out for in 1962.
7/19:  Aphids Damage toSpud Crop   
For the past week or so, the aphid buildup in Othello area potato fields has been alarming, according to information from Nick Sandar, WSU’s Potato Specialist, stationed at Othello.
Many local fields have been sprayed to date while infestation in many others need immediate control measures.
Damage from aphid infestations has been two-fold.  It has been causing the spread of leaf-roll virus which may result in a serious grade defect that will reduce the yields of Russett Burbank tubers.  The spread of this virus occurs with either light or heavy aphid infestations, according to Sandar.  He says, “It’s most important that no aphid buildup be permitted on late potatoes intended for storage, or these to be harvested about September 1.”  The second point is that severe aphid infestations can cause extensive direct-feeding damage.  Yield reductions occur due to the premature death of the plants which aphids feed on.
Nick Sandar urges potato growers to keep a constant check on aphid situation in their fields.  He says Thiodan insecticide applied at the recommended rate of 1 pound of active ingredient per acre is giving excellent control of aphids in most potato fields.
August 9, 1962 p 8  Early Blight Endangers Spuds in Basin Area

picture from the paper

High humidity and sprinkler irrigation have been bringing on an invasion of early Blight disease in Potatoes in the Othello area, reports Nick Sandar, WSU’s Extension Potato Specialist.
This fungus disease has been affecting the foliage and stems of potato plants causing premature plant death.  In late potatoes, this could mean reduced yields.  With a full grown crop (like those coming out of the ground this week) growers have been welcoming the early Blight because it helps defoliate the plants for harvesting.  But, growers who have late potatoes need to protect their plants against early blight and Powdery Mildew, Nic Sandar suggests some control measures Niveh and Dithane M-22 are commonly used for controlling early Blight, while sulphur is effective for controlling Powdery Mildew.  He says the materials should be applied in the early stages of the diseases-like now- as they’ll arrest the growth but will not cure.  Nick says growers of late potatoes need not worry about Late Blight because it requires low humidity to do its damage.
Sandar cautions, however, before applying insecticides or fungicides to potato fields it’s well to be sure the problems are correctly diagnosed.  “Control measures may be justified for three of the conditions currently happening in potato field, but little can be done about the others.  Growers can control Aphids, Early Blight and Powdery Mildew, but they can’t do anything about potash deficiency or Verticillium Wilt.  Thiodan insecticide has been giving excellent control of aphids in potato field, however, serious feeding damage has occurred in some fields where control measures were delayed, Sandar says, “Materials for the control of aphids, Early blight, and Powdery Mildew may be combined in one application.
In 1963, when I was five, we raised some pretty big potatoes.  Big trucks came to haul them away.  I thought my dad would be so excited, but he wasn't.   A blight had gotten into the potatoes, and his whole field of potatoes had to be sold for pig feed. 

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