PRESS BULLETIN 173
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION
CULTIVATION OF SWEET POTATOES.
BY C. K. MCQUARRIE
Many of our native farmers think that the sweet potato crop does not re-
quire any cultivation. If it is planted on new land, little cultivation will be
required, as grass and weeds are not apt to be much in evidence. Neverthe-
less, an occasional stirring of the soil, particularly in dry weather, is useful
for the conservation of moisture and the aeration needed to produce a good
On old land that has been several years in cultivation, grass and weeds will
get quite rampant shortly after planting, particularly if a heavy application of
fertilizer has been put on the crop. To keep such in check, the cultivator
must be used quite frequently until the vines completely cover the
ground, when cultivation may cease, as by that time the young potatoes will
be forming in the soil, and their growth would be interfered with if cultiva-
tion was continued any longer.
TOOLS TO USE
The best tool for cultivating this crop that we know of is a two-horse
disk cultivator with the disks set at a suitable angle at different depths, so as
to run along the sides of the bed, scraping weeds and some soil into the water
furrow in the operation. After the ground has been gone over in this way,
the angles of the disks are reversed and rebedding is done, leaving the beds in
their previous form. This work not only cleans up the weeds and grass, but
aerates the soil and tends to a larger yield.
To protect the young plants from being either torn or covered in the op-
eration, the fenders, with which all such tools are provided, have to be at-
tached to the frame of the cultivator. These fenders have to be properly ad-
July 15, 1911
justed as to width and depth to give the best results. Later on when the
vines begin running and interfere with the disks in their work, a home-made
attachment with fingers on it to lift the vines out of the way can be fastened
to the cultivator and used to good advantage; for cultivation can be carried on
much later than if this was not used.
DISK CULTIVATOR BETTER THAN PLOW
On those farms where cultivators are not used, the general method pract-
iced for keeping the weeds under control is to use a turning plow for barring
off the beds, clearing the top by hoeing, and then bedding back again. This
takes more time, and is more expensive, because the plow will not cover more
than a couple of acres in a day, whereas the disk cultivator will clear at least
8 to 10 acres a day. Fenders to protect the young plants cannot be used on a
plow, and in the rebedding operation a number of plants will be covered by
soil, requiring an extra hand to uncoverthem. When the vines begin running,
an extra hand is also required to rake the vines out of the way of the plow,
thus adding fifteen to twenty per cent to the cost of producing the crop. The
work will not be as well done as by the cultivator, for the raking of the vines
out of the way of the plow and back again damages them and curtails the crop.
Care should always be exercised not to work the soil when it is too wet, or
when the vines are wet with either dew or rain, for that tends to "scald" the
leaves, and is detrimental to a good crop yield.
State papers please copy.