「That’s amazing. If we plant it all in this big glass house then we should be able to weather this winter. Maybe we could even switch from planting wheat to the devil’s fruit in our fields next year. Wheat takes almost ten months to grow and you lose a lot of it in the threshing. This devil fruit has way more advantages. It might be difficult to fit all the plants in this greenhouse, but if we can harvest them properly we should have enough to seed our fields next year.」
「It’s best if you stop there.」
I said with a wry smile.
「The devil fruit are called potatoes. The issue with potatoes is that if one of them gets sick it is likely to spread to the rest of the potato crop. If we only plant potatoes and this happens then the village will lose its food source entirely. We should only raise potatoes when we have enough food from other sources to cover our needs.」
Back on Earth there were plenty of towns and villages that relied on potatoes for their livelihoods and were subsequently ruined. One of the most famous was in the 19th century when Ireland underwent a potato famine.
There were several factors, but a great number of potatoes fell ill and in only four years it caused mass starvation. Nearly 30% of the Irish population starved to death and a huge amount of others left the country.
Potatoes were an excellent crop that could save millions of people from hunger, but at the same time once it was lost it could kill many more with starvation.
The most common illness was one that hollowed out their stems. No matter what you did you couldn’t completely eradicate it. Once a field of potatoes caught it it usually meant a total loss of the crop. If the village depended on them then it could create a horrible famine all at once.
It was very convenient, but you couldn’t hide its flaws. The villagers’ lives were on my shoulders so I couldn’t fail them.
「Everything has its pitfalls.」
「There’s some other problems as well. If you use up the soil’s nutrients too much then you’ll barely be able to harvest half the amount subsequently. In addition potatoes have problems with parasites and the only real solution is to not grow potatoes for two years on any land that had previously grown them.」
Though I didn’t know if this world had them or not potatoes contracted parasites called nematodes that would attach to the roots and lay many eggs.
They wouldn’t affect a person’s body, but once they appeared the potato crop would drop sharply and if it got too bad then you wouldn’t be able to harvest a single potato. Furthermore, they could survive for 10 years without parasitism if they were still in their eggs.
That’s why it was common sense not to plant potatoes again before two years had passed. If you did that then it would give the soil a chance to recover and would prevent a large outbreak of parasites.
Even so the leftover eggs in the ground would continue to increase and slowly but surely you wouldn’t be able to continue harvesting tubers.
If we knew for sure there weren’t any such parasites in the soil of this world then we could plant them without worry. However, at this point is was impossible to know.
「Even if they grow within three months it’s a really harsh restriction that we can’t plant them for two years.」
「The normal solution is to plant other crops in that area. The parasites can’t eat crops unless they are similar to potatoes.」
「Normal….then what’s the abnormal solution?」
「Think of it in reverse. Instead we get rid of the soil that we used. It’s fine since there’s soil everywhere. I could even set up another glass house elsewhere. It’ll only take a day for me to do so.」
Indeed, as long as the soil we used wasn’t polluted there would be no problem.
The parasites’ habitat expands along with the soil, but since I could line the bottom of the glass house with brick they could be isolated.
Plus the brick could help insulate the glass house and maintain heat.
As long as the parasites didn’t spread I could simply set up another glass house elsewhere.
「That’s only Cyril……but even so if we put up glass houses everywhere we’ll run out of land and it’ll be a waste.」
「Of course we’ll reuse them. The parasites are weak to water. When we’re raising potatoes elsewhere we can flood the glass house with water to kill them off.」
This was part of the reason I had lined bricked up the bottom of the glass house so I could properly flood it.
「If they’ll die then we can just drain the water and use the same place then…」
「Well, even if I say they’re weak to water they can survive for 3 months. Plus unless it’s during spring or summer when the water heats up, it won’t be very effective. You need a certain temperature to kill them.」
This was the result of many years of research from Earth till we finally hit upon this method in the year 2013.
Starting in 1400 it took us all the way up till 2013 to find a proper method to exterminate them.
「These parasites are scarily obstinate. Ah, that’s right….that’s why you made the glass house. You can raise the temperature as you please to kill them.」
「You got it. It’s as you say. There are few creatures as persistent as these little bastards.」
It’s in the top 100 of worst creatures in my book.
「Well with long explanations over we just need to plant the potatoes. If it’s the two of us it shouldn’t take too long.」
I said and poured out potatoes from the box. All of them were still sprouts.
「Hey…aren’t all of these sprouting?」
「I did that on purpose. It’s best to plant them like this. I prepared all of them except the one that Lucy ate for planting.」
I had prepared them right by my workshop outside the village.
I let them sit out in the sunlight and begin sprouting.
Furthermore I had divided the larger potatoes into four without damaging the bud so I could increase our harvest.
Thanks to that we had a total of 402 potato seeds.
I prepared the soil with earth magic creating 7 columns of soil with 70 cm between them. We would plant a potato every 40 cm in each column.
The two of us silently planted potatoes and were able to finish just before the sun completely set.
We had run out of potatoes by the 3rd line of 7. It was a waste of land. If we had more potatoes I would have planted them…..
But it couldn’t be helped if we didn’t have enough. After this harvest we would have more potatoes to plant in the glass house.
At any rate we had finished our work for the day.
I met Lucy’s eyes as she smiled.
「We finished Cyril.」
「Thank you, I couldn’t have finished without your help.」
It was easier to plant them by hand than to plant them using magic. It would be easy to damage the seeds if I were to utilize magic to plant them. I might’ve gone crazy if I had to plant all these seeds by myself.
「What do we do next?」
「We remove weeds, get rid of bugs that approach, and fertilize the ground. Then we just leave it to grow. Once the stalk turns yellow we can begin the harvest. We can gather plenty of them.」
By the way, we were in the process of manufacturing fertilizer.
Thinking of the balance of Phosporous-Silicon-Potassium and maintaining the acidity of the soil meant I couldn’t leave it to an amateur. If poorly made, the fertilizer could poison the soil.
It’d be around a month before we needed more of it so we should be able to make it in time.
「and a harvest in only three months?」
「If we maintain a spring temperature of 20 degrees then it’ll take three months. If it’s cold it’ll take longer.」
「Even if it’s dangerous this makes me want to replace our wheat with potatoes. This kind of farming is way too easy.」
Lucy said enviously. She was usually tormented by the difficulties of raising a healthy crop of wheat so this must have been a shock.
I could understand her feelings. Wheat took much more effort but it was still easier than rice.
「Cyril are we not telling everyone else?」
「Well this is the first time we’ll be producing them after all. I don’t want to disappoint them if things go poorly. Basically I’ll do my best to take care of it on my own.」
It was pretty bothersome, but I could manage to look after some potatoes.
「You’re not alone. I’m here too. We’ll work together and surprise everyone.」
「Sorry for the trouble.」
「No no, I’m glad you’re relying on my Cyril.」
And so we went back home praying for the health of our potatoes.
With this hopefully our village’s food situation improves.