Why Grow TPS?
True potato seed…TPS…otherwise known as botanical seed, is an alternative way to grow potatoes for eating, fun, and research.
Not all potato varieties will bloom and set potato berries…seed balls…potato fruits. Those that do are usually open pollinated either by their own pollen or by pollination from other varieties facilitated by insects.
There are lots of advantages of growing potatoes from true seed. TPS does not transmit diseases such as virus, fungus, or bacteria. Tubers, even certified seed potatoes can carry diseases that affect the yield and quality of the potato harvest.
Try planting an acre of potatoes…it takes about 2,000 lbs. of potatoes to plant an acre. Some seed potatoes sell for a premium of $100 per hundred pounds and that would amount to $2,000 for an acre. Couple that with the machinery to plant those tubers…potato growing can be quite expensive. Compare this to TPS…a potato berry may contain 200 seed and 30,000 TPS to produce enough transplants for an acre would weigh less than an ounce.
Many times potatoes for planting from certified seed potatoes are available only for a short window during the Spring. TPS can be sown anytime and in the tropics that is a big plus. TPS can be sown directly in the soil if the temperatures are mild…not too hot nor too cold, or can be sown like tomato seed and transplanted to the field 4 to 8 weeks after sowing. Better yet is to grow the seedlings in shade houses, greenhouses, or sunny porches just to grow the plants long enough to produce mini tubers which may be harvested and planted to the field months later…out of season or within the same season as tuber planted units.
I like to grow seedling potato plants in the nursery beds or trays. It is quite easy to produce 75 mini tubers per square foot of area. Those tubers may be selected for type, color, etc., and grown out as a food crop…or selected hills saved to replant the following season.
It seems that transplants to the garden takes less time in the ground to produce a crop. Less weed competition too.
Many professionals in TPS like to use lines that produce very uniform tuber progenies that are the same color…usually white or light yellow. Seldom do these professionals want wide diversity in the TPS lines like I do. There is such a splendid potential for really great potatoes to be had from TPS…super colors, super flavors, and super qualities too numerous to mention. I take heritage potatoes from all over the world to use in making TPS either by OP methods or controlled crosses. Therefore if one wants a Russian variety …I have TPS for a number of varieties…same for land races from Peru, and continued breeding and re-crossing creates germplasm that builds up disease tolerance to local problems like late blight and frost resistance. I maintain thousands of breeding lines of potatoes and stockpile the TPS that lasts for many years.
TPS is something so fun for me, I have been playing around with it for 60 years. I hope to make more diversity available than would ever be said for just tuber lines alone. I hope others will want to save TPS from their own lines produced from TPS to continue the cycle of potato breeding and enjoy many meals using their own proprietary varieties. Each TPS seed is a unique individual…potentially a new variety.
My potato pedigree records look like something out of Ancestry.com…showing ancestral lines going back twenty generations. One of the varieties I am proud to use is the Lumper variety…from two hundred years ago and eaten by the Irish until the blight wiped out the harvest during the late blight epidemic of the mid 1800’s. I brought it back to life with crosses to late blight resistant lines and added extra flavor to boot. Breeding potatoes is more of an art than a science.
So if someone asks you why save TPS…just say back, “Why Not?”