(Letter date and original publication date unknown)
Matthew describes the “Gulich system” of potato cultivation, which produces larger tubers than the standard system. He notes the effect of depletion of the “vegetable mould” in America, where the system originated. He summarises the system as follows:
The thinking, experienced farmer will here see clearly how very well suited the Gulich system is to attain its object — a large and wholesome produce. Here we have, in the first place, selection of the strongest for reproduction; and, whether under moist or dry season, the system is calculated to act beneficially. Mr Gulich is a Holsteiner, who having emigrated to the United States more than twenty years ago, returned about two years ago to Germany to claim a reward offered by the Prussian Government for a plan preventive of potato blight.
It is likely that the Dublin Evening Mail copied this letter from another source, such as the Farmer, but no attribution of source is given. See also Matthew (1868c).
Full text follows:
Mr Patrick Matthew, of Gourdiehill, Errol, contributes the following description of the “Gulich svstem” of potato culture as carried out by his son in Germany:—
“Stir the land when in working condition to a depth from 10 to 14 inches, as the soil will bear it, and mix a fair quantity of good manure thoroughly with the soil. Choose the very largest best-formed potatoes of the kind you wish to raise, and plant the whole tubers on the surface of the well-stirred ground, the eye end lowermost, a little stuck into the ground, the original stem end uppermost, at a distance from each other both ways of from 3 to 4 feet, according as the kind is of a large or small growth of stems; and cover these planted tubers with a spadeful of earth to the depth of 4 or 5 inches, the potatoes thus covered appearing like a common mole heap. This, with care, can be done by a plough furrow. Some do not mix the manure with the soil, but dig flat-bottomed holes at the requisite distance of about 8 inches deep and a foot broad, putting the manure into the hole and covering it up to the surface with earth, upon which the potato is planted as above. But my son prefers mixing the manure with the whole stirred soil, as more enriching to the land and better for the ensuing season. In the case of large potatoes not being procurable, two smaller ones can be planted close together. In this way a large number of stems rise up from one large potato. When they have risen about 6 inches in length, they are spread round a centre with the hand, and a large handful of earth placed in the centre, so as to give the stems a sloping direction outwards all round. As the stems increase in height more earth is added to the hillock by the spade or by the plough, the plough passing both lengthways and crossways. And when the culture is completed the whole surface of the field is occupied by the hillocks, like very large mole heaps. After twice furring up by the plough both ways, the hillocks are rounded up and finished by the spade. As the stems become enlarged they fall down all round into the hollows and fill the whole space, excepting the bald crowns, and in a manner thatch the sides of the hillocks. Should any blight affect the leaves in the hollows, the spores of the disease do not rise against gravity, so as to reach the top of the hillock, to be carried or washed down to affect the tubers in the soil. The height of the hillock with the depth of the trench round it — even in a rainy season — retains the earth and tubers in a sufficiently dry state, so as not to form a damp enough field for the spread of the blight, even though the spores were to find access. Although this system retains the central parts of the hillock occupied by the swelling tubers a little drier than in the case of a flat surface or common drill fashion, yet in this dry season the potatoes under the Gulich system withstood the drought much better than under the common drill in my son’s fields. The whole hillock becomes permeated by the root tendrils down to the bottom of the trench, which is kept moist by the cover of leaves; and, if any rain falls, it runs down the stems or surface hillock into the bottom of the trench, and is there husbanded for a supply to the plant, not dried up by the sun or wind. The stirred earth should always be as deep as the bottom of the trench to have stirred earth below it. Two plots of early potatoes grown in a garden at Schenefeld, under the Gulich system, gave a very large increase of tubers and plums by the middle of July, this season, notwithstanding the previous excessive drought. The thinking, experienced farmer will here see clearly how very well suited the Gulich system is to attain its object — a large and wholesome produce. Here we have, in the first place, selection of the strongest for reproduction; and, whether under moist or dry season, the system is calculated to act beneficially. Mr Gulich is a Holsteiner, who having emigrated to the United States more than twenty years ago, returned about two years ago to Germany to claim a reward offered by the Prussian Government for a plan preventive of potato blight. Last season the scheme was tried at Pinneberg, Holstein, under a supervising committee, and proved a complete success on a field one-half under the common process, and the other half under the Gulich. The half of the produce under the common system were affected with rot, while by Gulich’s none were affected, and the produce much larger. What is in Europe termed the Gulich system has no doubt had its origin in the practice of raising potatoes in America, where the many remaining stumps and roots of the clearance prevented ploughing and drill husbandry. The potato culture is there necessarily carried on by the spade and hoe in the new land, rich in the vegetable mould, and at first requiring no manure, but which eventually comes to be exhausted in the course of twelve or fifteen years, organic-formed matter which had accumulated under the forest shade in the course of centuries being all dissipated, burned out by drought and exposure to sunray combustion and removed crops, without sufficient return of large manures. In the plentifulness of land in the United States, and sometimes scarcity of potato tubers for seed, the culture of this plant takes a tumuli character, and the superior productiveness and absence from blight of potato thus raised, naturally introduced this improved system, even where stumps and roots were not present.”