It is no secret that potatoes degenerate over time: their varietal qualities are lost, resistance to diseases decreases, yield decreases, and keeping quality deteriorates. And it happens, unfortunately, rather quickly. For good, every 5-7 years, the gardener needs to completely update the potato varieties on his site.
But really high-quality seed potatoes (mini-tubers, super-elite and elite) cost a lot of money. For this reason, we need to learn how to update our potato varieties on our own and use super-elite tubers of “own production” for planting. Today we suggest that you familiarize yourself with five ways to update potato planting material.
First, let’s understand the terminology that potato growers use to determine the age of planting potatoes. So, in the first year after cultivation, mini-tubers are obtained from seeds (or meristems). In the second year – the super-superelite, in the 3rd year – the superelite, in the 4th year – the elite, in the 5th year – the first reproduction, etc.
What we buy on the market is at best a third reproduction, and most likely a seventh or eighth. Not surprisingly, after a couple of years, the new variety is already indistinguishable from the old one. Therefore, it is necessary for everyone who grows potatoes in their area to try and master at least one of the ways to obtain high-quality tubers.
Method 1: growing planting potatoes from seeds
Over the years of growing potatoes from tubers, we managed to forget that potatoes have seeds. They are formed in the same “green tomatoes” that, on some varieties, start after flowering. If you have these and are determined to try seed propagation, you can wait for them to mature and prepare your own seeds.
To do this, the fruits are collected and hung in cloth bags in the light in a warm room for a while. Ripened berries should become lighter and softer, then seeds can be selected from them, washed and dried. If you don’t have your own seeds, it doesn’t matter, the seeds are sold in stores. Moreover, it is better to buy varieties, not hybrids. The former retain their properties longer.
What is good about growing from seeds? Seeds are much cheaper than mini-tubers, do not require special storage conditions and remain viable for 6-10 years. Potatoes grown from seeds are completely free from viruses and diseases. Once I suffered with seedlings – and received high-quality planting material for five years in advance. Yes, you will probably have to suffer. Obtaining mini-tubers from seeds is not an easy process.
Method 2: growing mini-potato tubers from a large tuber
This and all subsequent methods are based on the use of the meristem – a kind of plant growth point, a group of cells that can divide quickly and intensively. Roughly speaking, meristem reproduction is cloning, growing a new plant from the cells of the previous one.
Welcome to the laboratory! Let’s clone potatoes. Getting mini tubers from a large one is perhaps the easiest way to renew seed potatoes. Our task is this: in the spring to select the best tubers of those varieties that require renewal, and place them in the cellar for the whole summer.
Keep an eye on the humidity, spray from time to time. By autumn, the tubers will sprout and acquire a root system on which small potatoes will appear. These are mini-tubers – pure planting material without any “sores”. They must be collected, dried and stored until next spring. Mini-tubers planted in the ground will yield a super-super elite crop. Well, and so on …
Method 3: growing mini potato tubers from cuttings
Another way to get meristematic tubers is cuttings. In summer, we mark the best, healthiest potato bush on the potato bed and be sure to wait until it blooms. It makes no sense to take cuttings before.
After flowering, we cut off several branches of the tops and cut the stem into several cuttings of 2-4 centimeters in length. The main thing is that each cutting has a leaf. We discard the upper and lower parts of the stem, and soak the cuttings from the middle for four hours in a pink solution of potassium permanganate.
On a cloudy day or in the evening, we plant cuttings in the garden. The bed should be in the shade, where direct sunlight does not fall. We plant the cuttings so that the leaf is in a vertical position and is sprinkled with earth by two-thirds (the axillary bud of the leaf should be at a depth of about one centimeter). The distance between the cuttings should be three centimeters, and between the rows – twenty centimeters.
We mulch the bed with cuttings and spill it. After 2-3 weeks, the leaves will wither and turn yellow, and a leaf tuber will begin to form in the sinus – a mini-potato that has grown due to the outflow of nutrients from the leaves. A month after planting, cuttings with tubers are dug up, mini-tubers are disinfected in a weak solution of potassium permanganate, dried, greened in the light, and then stored in cloth bags until the next season.
Method 4: growing seed potatoes from the tops of tubers
Another simple way to update a potato variety is to plant the tops of tubers. In order for the seed material to turn out to be of high quality, it is necessary to select the largest, healthy tubers of each variety in the fall.
In the spring, the tops with the apical bud (about a third of the tuber) should be cut off from all selected tubers and placed in wet sawdust for germination (the rest of the tuber can be planted like ordinary potatoes for food). Once every 2-3 days, the sawdust is slightly moistened with water.
After about 20 days, the tops will sprout and the first roots. Now they can be planted in the garden to a depth of 4-5 centimeters. In autumn, all tubers grown from the tops should be selected for seeds.
Method 5: growing seed potatoes from sprouts
This method is good because it allows you to grow up to 45 bushes from one potato tuber, which is very important for fast variety renewal.
Potato sprouts are light and shadow. Light sprouts – strong green – appear when the tuber germinates in the light. Shadow sprouts are frail pale ones that are usually cut off when taking potatoes out of the cellar. Both those and other sprouts can be used for planting. Sprouts can be planted in pots (as for seedlings) or directly into the ground.
The most important thing when growing potatoes from sprouts is nutrient soil. These plants do not have a mother tuber to feed on, so they need to be fed at least once a week. To do this, it is best to alternate the infusion of grass, infusion of ash and infusion of biohumus. In autumn, all potatoes from the best bushes grown from sprouts should be left to seed.
In general, this is exactly how it is necessary to select all planting potatoes: put marks near the best and healthiest bushes and select all potatoes (even the smallest) for seeds only from these bushes. With such selection, potato variety renewal will be required no more than once every 5-7 years, and with our traditional method – dump all the potatoes in a pile and select the smaller one for seeds – you need to update the varieties almost every two years.