Table of contents:
- Is it worth the candle?
- How to restore the quality of potato planting material?
- Benefits of growing potatoes from seed
Video: Growing Potatoes From Seeds - Is It Worth It?
2023 Author: Sebastian Paterson | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 20:34
Is it worth the candle?
Remember how we usually propagate potatoes on the site? That's right, vegetatively. We select the best tubers and plant them. And meanwhile, from year to year, they degenerate, accumulating bunches of diseases, and the yield is getting smaller and smaller - two buckets have been planted, one and a half have been dug out, and you also need to spud.
This situation continues to deteriorate sharply with the expansion of the range of viral diseases of the potato, leading to its complete degeneration. Yields are falling, some of the gardeners have long been forced to simply give up growing everyone's favorite potatoes. Due to the defeat of viruses, many, even valuable potato varieties are removed from production, because for this reason, its yield is reduced by 2-3 times; shortage from late blight reaches up to 30-40%. The damage to the tubers with scab also causes considerable damage to the crop.
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In addition to a decrease in yields due to diseases, potatoes lose their taste. It becomes simply pointless to grow it.
Where do potato diseases come from?
In no other vegetable crop does seed quality affect yield and storage as strongly as potatoes.
Currently, about 40 viral, viroid and phytoplasmic diseases of the potato are known.
In summer cottages and backyard plots, gardeners, as a rule, propagate tubers of mass reproduction, in which many infections of a bacterial-viral and fungal nature have accumulated, as well as gene mutations that worsen the quality of offspring. Various bacterial and fungal diseases, penetrating into the tuber and overcoming its natural immunity, accumulate every year in increasing numbers and are transmitted from one generation to another. Viral and nematode infections are also transmitted through tubers. As a result, the potato rapidly degenerates over several generations; as a result, productivity is greatly reduced; in winter, tubers are poorly stored and rot.
How to restore the quality of potato planting material?
It is recommended to carry out a radical improvement of potato planting material with high-quality elite material once every 5-7 years. Otherwise, it simply does not make sense to grow its tubers. Therefore, the question of where to get elite tubers in order to get a good harvest of potatoes is of increasing concern to gardeners. Theoretically, there are three options, in practice, for most gardeners, two.
Option 1. Purchase of elite potato tubers
They can be grown in two ways - either the seed potatoes discussed in the article, or grown in the laboratory in test tubes from plant cells, and then the potato is often called test tube. This option is much simpler, but the potato superelite is expensive, and you can't buy many elite tubers. In addition, there are two more interesting points. The first one is that, alas, quite often, under the guise of an elite, you can be sold completely non-elite potatoes (at least I have come across this more than once or twice). And outwardly, you often do not distinguish that the tubers you purchase for planting have nothing to do with the super-elite or elite. Alas, the small-sized, healthy planting material obtained when growing potatoes from seeds has nothing to do with the small tubers of ordinary potatoes, which are sifted out during sorting. Such tubers can only be fed to livestock. It is necessary to learn well that the tuber is a tuber, and to acquire healthy seed material from well-known and reliable producers.
The second point is that even if you are lucky and the tubers you purchased are really super elite, then in reality you can then propagate potatoes with tubers for 5-7 years. The drop in yields starts from 4-5 and increases after 6-7 years of cultivation (or, scientifically, after the 7th reproduction). Compared to the elite, varietal qualities are noticeably deteriorating and viral diseases are significantly spread. And then everything starts all over again, there is a search for high-quality elite tubers - and so on in a circle.
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Option 2. Growing elite potatoes from seeds
This method is more reliable than purchasing elite tubers, and much more effective from a variety of points of view. However, before, gardeners had no opportunity to try it. And all because there were simply no seeds.
The first mention of seed potatoes in the vegetable press dates back to 1989. It was at this time that the Institute of Potato Economy, located in the Moscow Region, announced the practical possibility of growing potatoes from seeds. It is clear that potato-growers had previously obtained new varieties of potatoes from seeds, but for a mere mortal, all this was behind seven locks. And, in fact, there was no particular need for potato growers to deal with this rather laborious process. Everything was much simpler, and no one really complained about the harvests.
Today everything has changed dramatically - there are no varieties of potatoes in stores, even eyes run wide. Moreover, restless breeders have developed exclusive potato hybrids that can be sown with seeds and get huge yields.
Option 3. Growing test tube plants
Theoretically, it is possible to buy directly test-tube plants, although in potato-growing institutes they are grown mainly for farms, and not for gardeners. But with a very strong desire and a lot of enthusiasm, you can find them. True, tinkering with test-tube plants is also not sugar: they are planted in a greenhouse, and this is a very painstaking and responsible job. From each test tube, you need to get a fragile plant with tweezers and plant it in the ground, at a distance of 15 cm from each other. At first, you will have to water it daily with warm water from a spoon, then the technology is common, but the plants will have to spend the first year in a greenhouse.
Benefits of growing potatoes from seed
For those who have not yet heard about this method of obtaining potatoes, we will briefly dwell on its advantages:
- the price of one seed is 25 times less than the cost of a mini-tuber equal to it in quality;
- seeds take up very little space, and for storage they do not need a basement or a cellar;
- seeds can be stored for a very long time - from 6 to 10 years;
- the yield of hybrids grown using seeds is 8-23% higher than that of vegetatively propagated tubers;
- Plants grown from seeds are completely free from concomitant diseases, more resistant to adverse environmental factors and late blight.
Thus, the tubers obtained from seeds correspond to the highest quality elite material, having planted which, you can get large yields of potatoes for several years (usually up to five years), and all just because the planting material you use will be free of viral, fungal and bacterial diseases.
Inevitable difficulties in growing potatoes
If you have never grown potatoes from seed, then sowing them will be unpleasantly surprised. The fact is that growing potato seedlings is much more difficult than seedlings of the same tomatoes, or peppers, or eggplants … And there are a lot of reasons.
- Potato seedlings are very small and therefore more difficult to plant in pots (more difficult not to damage small sprouts).
- Seedlings grow extremely slowly and strive to be capricious on any occasion. Apparently, they have a worse and slower root system than tomatoes - the roots suffocate more easily in insufficiently loose soil. Therefore, the soil should be extremely loose, or even better - first germinate the seeds on sawdust, and only when the shoots reach about 3 cm, transplant them into ordinary pots on a fertile substrate.
- Potato seedlings are more susceptible to diseases, primarily black leg. As a result, you have to more closely monitor their development and regularly use biological products (planriz, black yeast and trichodermin) and be sure to add trichodermin to the soil when planting (you can buy ready-made soil with this drug).
- Seedlings stretch out very strongly from lack of light, much stronger than tomatoes or peppers. Therefore, I now grow potatoes not together with all other seedlings under a specially made lamp with fluorescent lamps, but in a greenhouse, where at other times there are cacti. Here the distance between plants and lamps is very small, about 25 cm, and plants develop much more actively.
- Grown potato seedlings are difficult to transport. The problem is that you have to sow potato seeds very early, back in February, and before planting, the plants become quite tall, and at the same time they do not have the power of the trunk, like tomatoes or peppers, and by their nature they bend, cling for each other, etc. As a result, it is also not easy to pack them for transportation and then unpack them.
- The next problem is that in the first ten days of May, the seedlings of the same tomatoes can be planted in a greenhouse for biofuel and additional shelters can be installed. And where to plant potato seedlings at this time? He no longer wants to grow in pots, the greenhouse is not intended for him, and planting heat-loving potato seedlings in the ground at this moment will lead to the obvious death of plants from frost. I found a way out and plant it in a greenhouse, and in the end I solved many problems and got rid of many headaches associated with potatoes (more on this below).
Obviously, a certain laboriousness in growing potato seedlings can alienate gardeners from the method of seed propagation of this crop. However, those who still want to have a lot of tasty potatoes of their own, and not a store-bought one, which you cannot take in your mouth, will not be stopped by difficulties.
By the way, it is worth noting that all the above problems occur only in the first year of growing potatoes from seeds. And from the second year everything will be as usual, because you will again switch from seed reproduction to the usual cultivation of tubers.
Minitubs, superelite, elite …
Let's understand the terminology in a nutshell. The fact is that if you buy elite potatoes in a store, you often come across a lot of terms that do not say anything to an ordinary mortal: minitubers, superelite, elite, etc.
Everything is very simple here. Minitubers are obtained from seeds in the first year of cultivation - depending on the growing conditions and variety, their weight can be very different, but more often minitubers weigh 6-10 g. In fact, growing potatoes from seeds on your own, you can get and tubers are much larger - weighing 30-40 and even 110-120 g. For me, for example, small minitubers of 10 g make up about 1/3 of the total volume, and the remaining 2/3 are minitubers of medium size from 30 to 50 g, 10-20 percent falls on large minitubers weighing up to 120 g. But everyone will have their own situation here. Earlier, say, when I grew potatoes from seeds not in a greenhouse, but in the open field, I had more small tubers, and the yield itself is much lower (but more on that separately).
Then, the next year, super-super-elite seed potatoes are obtained from minitubers (agronomists call this the first reproduction, i.e. this is considered the first year in the open field), in the second year in the open field they receive super-elite potatoes, in the third - elite.
On average, according to official data, from 1 minituber weighing 6-10 g in 1 year you can get 1-2 kg of elite seed potatoes. After three years from 1 minituber you can get high-quality high-yielding seed potatoes for planting in a field of 300 m2.
How much can you get from seed-grown potato plants?
Official data indicate that with proper care, potato seedlings are capable of producing 0.5 kg or more tubers from a bush, weighing from 10 to 100 g. Large ones are used for food, and small tubers (10-30 g), called sevk, are left as planting stuff for next year. Despite the small size of the set, highly productive plants grow from it. They are practically free from viral and other diseases, many exhibit increased resistance to late blight. Subject to agricultural technology for the next year, you can get 250-350 kg of potatoes from a hundred parts. In this case, seeding is required for planting by weight 2-3 times less than ordinary tubers.
I personally did not keep any statistics in this regard, and did not take into account how much each potato plant gives. True, I can say that, for example, last year from an area of 3 m2, where about two dozen plants grew (this is just half of the greenhouse that I take for potatoes from seeds), I collected more than two 10-liter buckets of seed potatoes. But in the greenhouse, of course, the conditions for potatoes were great. At the same time, in previous years, and I have been growing potatoes from seeds for about 8 years, my harvest from about the same area did not even reach a bucket - in different years it was different: from half a bucket to 3/4 of a bucket. But here the mass of the above problems affected. First of all, not all plantings could be protected from spring frosts, even despite all kinds of shelters,the potatoes nevertheless froze slightly (the ground in May is very cold and does not warm during frosts, but biofuel heats in the greenhouse), and the yield, accordingly, decreased.
Features of seed reproduction of potatoes
It must also be remembered that when planting potatoes with seeds, you cannot get the same type of offspring. This is a biological feature of potato plants. Individual bushes will differ in the intensity of development and yield, in the shape and color of tubers, in resistance to diseases. In principle, such a variation of useful traits can be considered not a minus, but a plus of potatoes, because it makes it possible to select the best bushes right at the root, focusing on yield, disease resistance, depth of eyes, etc. As a result, taking tubers from the bushes you like as planting material, next year you will get a fairly evened offspring.
The peculiarity of the seed progeny of potatoes: the spread of useful traits, namely, the different shape and color of the tubers, great differences in yield and resistance to diseases. As a result, by breeding potatoes from seeds, the gardener becomes a real expert, testing new plants and selecting the most productive ones, resistant to diseases and pests. True, this is not entirely simple and requires at the first stage (in the first year of life, when you will have to grow seedlings) additional time and labor.
Read the next part. Growing potatoes from seeds - agricultural technology →
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