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The History of the potato Industry in Nebraska

Alexander Pavlista, Potato Specialist & Crop Physiologist at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center, University of Nebraska

The Beginning

The Nebraska Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) began tracking the potato industry in 1866, a year before statehood. Then, acreage was 5,000;yield was 36 cwt/a (cwt = hundredweight = 100 lb), and the crop value was $500,000.

The late 19th Century saw the advent of the “Mechanical Revolution,” the first modern agricultural milestone. Acreage steadily increased reaching a plateau of around 100,000 acres in 1907 (Figure 1) that lasted to 1935.

Potato production during this period was directly related to increased acreage. There was no change in yield which remained at about 50 cwt/a (Figure 2).

The sudden 37% decline in potato acreage between 1935 and 1936 can be accounted for by the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.

From 1936, through WWII to 1946, a short plateau was maintained at 70,000 acres. Interestingly, during this period, production attained its highest level to that time (Figure 3). At about 7 million cwt, production was nearly double that attained during WWI. The value of production, at about $13 million from 1942-48, was the highest to that time as well (Figure 4).

(Click to enlarge)

Historic overview of the potato Industry of Nebraska

The next 10 years

The author of this remarkable historic overview of the potato Industry of Nebraska is Dr. Pavlista, who is Potato Specialist &Crop Physiologist at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center.

He expects acreage to be stable near 20,000 while yield inclines. The income from potato to State growers could continue to rise to $100 million level as practices and cultivars keep improving.