[Market-farming] potato seed, source & disease

Road's End Farm organic87 at frontiernet.net
Sat Feb 14 11:48:59 EST 2009

On Feb 13, 2009, at 11:01 AM, Steve Diver wrote:

> Though one year I did that with food potatoes
> from the organic coop instead of using certified
> seed potatoes.  Turned into the year my taters came
> down with the dreaded Late Blight.... bluck!

Might or might not have been why you got the late blight. Disease 
concerns are definitely a good reason for using certified seed; but 
late blight blows around on the wind, and if it's in your area, you're 
likely to get it no matter how clean your original seed was.

The one year I had late blight here the potatoes weren't salable as 
anything, food or otherwise. They all turned (sometimes a few days 
after harvest) into a yuchy mess of obviously rotten texture with a 
very strong terrible smell. The extension agent who came out and 
confirmed what disease I had told me that she thought it had started in 
conventional fields that year and spread to the organic growers, rather 
than the other way around (she wasn't blaming the conventional 
techniques, just that from what she had seen on the ground she thought 
it had happened that way in that particular year).

If your crop was the only one in the area, or the first one in the 
area, to come down with late blight, that would seem to indicate that 
the seed was indeed the problem; if others had it first, it very likely 
wasn't the seed.

Having said all that: I don't use potatoes bought at the grocery store 
for seed. If I had a good clean crop the previous year, and plenty of 
it, I use some of that for seed; otherwise, I buy certified seed  -- 
double-certified, in my case: certified both as clean seed and as 
organic. On average I think I buy seed potatoes about every other year. 
(I don't mean that every other year I have a terrible or disease-ridden 
crop; I lean over backward on this, as far as seed goes. And potatoes 
grown in this area tend to go gradually down over time as far as seed 
crop quality goes; we're too humid and not hight enough altitude, so my 
own seed often produces a decent crop for a year or two but not for 
three or four; I take this into account, and if crop has dropped off at 
all I get new seed.)

-- Rivka; Finger Lakes NY, Zone 5 mostly
Fresh-market organic produce, small scale
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