This is no couch potato

By Raina Brooks

Brooks potato

Straw and cardboard tricks the potato plant into thinking its deep underground, keeps weeds down, and makes harvest easy. Photo by Raina Brooks

CHIUSDINO, Italy – Farmers here have to have a gentle hand. With potatoes, the more you pull up the root, the more you release the carbon inside and disturb the plant. Weather patterns also impact the crops drastically. Indeed this spring at Spannocchia has been cooler than most years, which could push back the time potatoes are harvested.

This week at the farm, new potatoes barely sprouting from roots are poking through from beneath their cardboard coverings. The cardboard blocks out light and potatoes can be planted closer to the surface for easy access, Sara Silvestri, education director, said. The fiber will also eventually decompose into the soil as carbon.

Potatoes are typically harvested in June. If treated and kept dry and cool they may last for a month or a little longer. Meat and potatoes are very popular foods in Tuscany, and given their prominence in the farm garden, this is certainly the case for Spannocchia as well.

The precious crops unfortunately have a few predators. Copper is sometimes used as an insecticide, but insects are hardly the most dangerous predator in the region. Wild boars are also an issue as well as other animals such as foxes and deer. There is fencing around the farm to help protect the crops from attacks, but it can occasionally be insufficient. Silvestri says the farm has a common saying “porcupines go under, deer go over, and wild boar just go through.”

 

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Filed under Chiusdino, MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Spannocchia

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