Table of contents:
- Why does potato planting material degenerate?
- Hydro sorting of tubers facilitates selection
- Seed renewal - the path to harvest
- Rehabilitation of potato planting material
Video: Effective Techniques For Improving Potato Planting Material
Why does potato planting material degenerate?
Usually, gardeners select seed material for planting as follows: all the potatoes are dumped in a common heap, then tubers are selected that are approximately suitable in size for planting.
We know that in healthy, productive bushes, the tubers are large, even in size. But in those affected by diseases - they are smaller. And it turns out that when we select seed-sized tubers from the general heap like this, we thereby leave diseased material from the worst bushes for planting. And this is repeated for several years in a row. As a result, the summer resident notices that the harvest is declining every year. More rot appears during storage.
After that, the gardener usually changes the potato variety, taking it, for example, from a neighbor. But this method also gives practically no results. Why is this happening? It's all about the biology of the potato plant. A potato has aboveground stems on which leaves and underground stems called stolons grow. A tuber is, in fact, a thickened piece of an underground stem, a part of a plant, it can be compared to a cutting. A big mistake of many gardeners is that the tuber is considered the seed of a potato. Some varieties grow real seeds after flowering. By planting a tuber, we continue to grow the potato plant from which it was taken. And so many years. The plant accumulates viral diseases with age. And don't expect a harvest from a diseased plant.
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Hydro sorting of tubers facilitates selection
What is the way out of this situation? You can maintain yields through selection. There are several ways to do it, and ideally all should be applied. But at a minimum, you need to use nest selection. This is done this way: the tubers from each bush are folded separately during harvesting, then only tubers from the best bushes are selected for seeds.
And what advice can you give to those who, the old fashioned way, selected tubers from a common heap? There is also a way for them - hydro - sorting. They use it in the spring, as soon as they get the tubers for germination. The method consists in selecting tubers with a higher specific gravity. Diseased tubers are generally lighter.
There are many recipes for hydro-sorting solutions, I will give the simplest and cheapest one, which I myself use. For 10 liters I take 1.8-2.2 kg of table salt; disinfectants - 20 g of boric acid, 10 g of copper sulfate, 3 g of potassium permanganate. The amount of salt depends on the type of potato. The more starch the potatoes contain, the more salt you need. In practice, I do this: I dissolve 2 kg of salt in a bucket of water, and then I watch how many tubers float.
If more than 30% floats, dilute the solution a little with water. If less than 20%, then I additionally dissolve salts. Thus, I create such a concentration of the solution for this variety so that about 30% of the tubers are rejected. Of course, you can make the solution less concentrated, but for myself I decided that it would be better if some of the good tubers were rejected than diseased tubers would get into the seeds.
In no case should tubers of different varieties be hydro-sorted simultaneously, since due to the different starch content in different varieties, the specific weight of the tubers differs. And then it may happen that all tubers of a less starchy variety will end up in a marriage.
Hydrosorting will not be superfluous for those who use other methods of selection. In my practice, I use it in addition to clone selection. After all, tubers infected with viruses can give a large yield in response to infection (trying to survive). But next year there will be a shortage. If at least one bad tuber is found, the entire clone is rejected. This contributes to obtaining very high quality seed material.
My work experience in 2005 showed that tubers selected from the best bushes, and then also hydro-sorted, turned out to be healthier: visible infection with viruses was noticed in only about one percent of the plants. In the areas where tubers from the best bushes were planted, which were not subjected to hydro-sorting, 10-15% of plants affected by viruses and stunted in growth were found. The effect of this technique is noticeable: the number of weak plants, potentially unable to give a good harvest, has decreased tenfold!
Seed renewal - the path to harvest
And what about those who have potatoes of unknown origin? It makes no sense for them to conduct such selections. Only renew the seed! But this also applies to all potato growers. No matter how carefully you select the planting material, you still need to update: buy healthy seeds or seeds of a new, more productive variety. It is better not to use potatoes of unknown origin, for example, bought in a store or on the market, as this is associated with the risk of contamination of the soil in your area with quarantine diseases, the pathogens of which are transmitted from soil particles on the tubers. In addition, no one will give you a guarantee that these potatoes are not infected with viruses or spores of phytophthora, rhizoctonia, etc.
Seed tubers should be purchased from reputable producers. They can be local breeding centers or well-known potato growers who receive large yields of "second bread" annually. For example, here, in Omsk, planting material can be purchased at SIBNIISkhoz or from members of the potato growers club. When buying tubers for seeds, it is worth asking what kind of reproduction they are.
Reproductions of tubers grown from test-tube plants have their own names: 1st year - mini-tubers, 2nd year - super-superelite, 3rd year - superelite, 4th year - elite, 5th year - first vegetative reproduction, 6th year - second vegetative reproduction, and so on. It is irrational to grow potatoes longer than the 5th vegetative reproduction, because the tubers will accumulate many viral and other diseases.
Recently, at the SIBNIISKhoz, you can buy mini-tubers - planting material, healed by the apical meristem method. These small tubers, 1-3 cm in diameter, represent the highest quality planting material. It is not advisable to plant them for food purposes, it is much more profitable to use the meristem planting material for growing the elite, which can be used for food purposes next year.
Consequently, two years will be spent to breed excellent planting material that will provide such a high yield that will not only surprise, but also convince you that the decision to purchase meristem planting material was right. By the way, plants from such planting material, in my observation, are absolutely not affected by the Colorado potato beetle.
Don't be embarrassed by the high price tag for mini tubers. On my seed plot with an area of 0.3 acres, having planted 100 meristem plants, I get seed material from mini-tubers (superelite), sufficient for planting it next year on an area of more than three acres. And this is even if you do not use intensive breeding methods. A simple example: when I first planted the superelite of the Romano variety, the yield with the same agricultural technology jumped from 180 to 300 kg (7.5 bags) per hundred square meters. Now I have reduced the area of potato planting by more than three times, and the yield is no less. For some varieties, it is much larger than before.
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Rehabilitation of potato planting material
Unfortunately, it is difficult for gardeners in remote areas to acquire such high-quality planting material. But there are also ways for them to, to some extent, improve the health of potatoes in a conventional soil culture based on strengthening immunity and increasing the growing season. These techniques are not complicated and do not require special training.
The first method is the regeneration of plants from the tops (5-7 cm) of young shoots. Taken before budding (at a plant height of 15-20 cm), they root quite easily and produce plants that remain green in the open field until the autumn frosts, while plants from tubers planted simultaneously with the rooting of the tops complete the growing season at the usual time … It was also noted that in potato plants obtained from the tops of shoots from bushes with signs of viral diseases, these symptoms of diseases are absent or very weak.
This method is based on the fact that the tops of the growing shoots carry much less viral and other infections. Regeneration technology: the tops are cut with a sharp knife with the obligatory disinfection of its blade in a saturated solution of potassium permanganate. They are planted in an ordinary way at a distance of 20-25 cm from each other. To improve rooting, you can hold the shoots in a solution of heteroauxin (according to the instructions). Further care consists of shading and frequent watering until the plants take root.
The second way is to awaken the axillary buds. It is based on the property of tubers that only a small part of its growth buds is involved in the growth of vegetative mass, the rest, including most of the axillary ones, are dormant. But if you remove the tops of the main shoots (only the very top, 0.3-0.5 cm), the axillary buds start to grow, as a result of which the total growth energy increases, leading to an increase in the leaf surface and, most importantly, to the disappearance or significant weakening of the signs of viral potato diseases.
My experiments this year on the Sotochka variety showed that it is better to remove the top from plants 2-10 cm high. In this case, the increase in the yield already this year was more than 50%. Plants from which the top was removed at a height of 15-20 cm did not give a noticeable increase in yield this year. There is information that this method is not applicable to early-maturing potatoes, but I myself have not verified this statement. It would be nice if amateur potato growers tested this technique on different varieties, and then reported the results of the experiment.
The third method is based on growing the planting material in more favorable conditions. Tubers are planted in summer, in early to mid-June. In this case, they develop at a moderate temperature, optimal illumination. And insects - carriers of viruses - are already much less. In addition, the tubers obtained from the summer (late) planting, according to the observation of scientists, have a greater number of eyes than the tubers from the spring planting harvest. A small shortfall in the harvest this year will pay off by increasing the yield from these tubers next year. But it often happens that plants from late planting catch up with relatives planted in spring. This year, on my site, the yield from such plantings was the same as in the spring, and for four varieties it turned out to be even 10-15% higher!
I would like to warn gardeners against reckless use of the information received about various agricultural techniques. It is better to try them on a small number of plants, and only in case of a positive result, use them in full. The fact is that conditions and soil are different for everyone. And different varieties can react differently to certain techniques. And by applying the technology to the entire site, you can be left without a crop. Good seeds are half the battle. Using healthy seeds can double your harvest. But nevertheless, to obtain a high yield (10-15 bags per one hundred square meters), appropriate technology is also needed. But that's another big conversation.
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