What's in a (potato) seed?

Friday Jan 25 2019

Have you ever seen a potato go to seed? 

That green cherry tomato-looking picture actually encases about 100-300 "true" potato seeds (also called botanical potato seeds). Most people don't encounter these green berries very often as potatoes are usually (at least partly) sterile. Producing seeds in potatoes depends on many factors such as the variety, the growing conditions, and a lot of unknowns as well.

Even if you don't allow two different potato cultivars to cross-pollinate, potatoes grown from true potato seeds will be wildly variable and quite different genetically from their parent plant (its genes are shuffled randomly into their seeds which can be a lot of fun for discovering new varieties and maintaining genetic diversity, but not always great for depending on to fill your belly . . .especially when you end up with bitter potatoes!). For centuries, farmers have been producing reliable potato crops by planting tubers instead of seeds. When you plant a tuber you get a genetic clone with all the variety's characteristics as well.



Certified seed potatoes

The trouble with planting potato clones, however, is that tubers can host a lot of disease (bacterial, fungal, viral). That's where certified seed comes in. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for a rigorous certification and classification program for potatoes. Farms producing potatoes for seed are required to be certified and inspected and all potatoes sold for seed in Canada must be lab-verified clean stock.

Double-certified seed potatoes

We use the words “double-certified” to indicate potatoes that are CFIA-certified and certified-organic. While there are a limited number of farms in Canada that produce seed potatoes, there are even fewer farmers who go through the additional work of organic production and certification (only a handful of farms in Eastern Canada are producing organic seed potatoes). These verified-organic growers experience all the challenges of farming from weathering storms and the unpredictable to rodent and pest pressures, all while maintaining good organic practices and a pile of paperwork. If you are looking for a rare breed – these farmers are it!

   

 

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