Increasing quality, diversity and seed availability of potato varieties for small-scale farms

2008 Annual Report for LNE08-272

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $176,434.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Michael Glos
Cornell University
Elizabeth Dyck
Organic Growers' Research and Information-Sharing Network
Dr. Keith Perry
Cornell University

Increasing quality, diversity and seed availability of potato varieties for small-scale farms


Seventy-one growers trialed 32 new and heirloom potato varieties on their organic farms with each farm trialing an average of 7.5 different varieties. These same varieties were also trialed in a replicated trial and additional new varieties were evaluated at the Cornell research farm. An initial gathering of organic potato growers was held and three additional winter grower meetings throughout the state were planned.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Through the cooperation of 80 growers, organic seed potato producers, NOFA-NY, and Cornell University Departments of Plant Pathology and Horticulture, 180 heirloom and new potato varieties are evaluated, resulting in the adoption of a minimum of 10 varieties among the 40 cooperating growers. Commercial organic seed producers and a potato seed-sharing network work with growers to ensure a sustainable potato production scheme from seed to table.


Milestone 1. In a three-year cycle, at least 60 heirloom/new, disease-tested potato varieties per year (180 total) are grown at Cornell. Thirty to 40 grower-selected varieties are increased (year 2). Twenty final selections are distributed as seed (year 3).
In 2008 66 new/heirloom varieties were evaluated for the first time and 40 varieties were evaluated and increased for a second year. From two prior years of evaluations 32 varieties were made available for grower trials.

Milestone 2. Each year 40 growers trial 20 heirloom/new, disease-tested potato varieties identified in milestone 1. Growers surveyed, feedback is summarized, distributed to growers.
In 2008 seventy-one growers evaluated 32 varieties. Completed evaluations are in the process of being compiled and summarized. Results will be made available at a half day session of the NOFA-NY winter conference and in the NOFA-NY newsletter.

Milestone 3. Each year, replicated yield trials are conducted at Cornell organic farm, using 10 of the heirloom and new varieties planted and under evaluation by growers. Data is distributed to growers directly and at educational forums described in milestone 5.
In 2008 a replicated trial of 30 potato varieties including 11 varieties from our previous evaluations of new and heirloom varieties. Results were handed out at the November 2008 Organic Potato show n’tell and will be distributed at the winter grower meetings.

Milestone 4. A grower seed-sharing network of 20 members produces & distributes seed (years 1, 2, 3). Two new double certified potato seed growers begin operating in year three.
In 2008 growers were surveyed for their interest in a grower seed-sharing network. From the results of the survey there is clearly substantial interest in building the infrastructure necessary for organically grown and certified potato seed distribution.
Thorough the winter grower meetings the initial grower seed-sharing network will be set up.

Milestone 5. Twenty growers from three different geographic & cropping regions attend educational meetings (3 per year, 9 total) focused on potato varieties, seed production, pests, diseases, and marketing. A total of 120 growers/year also attend two yearly workshops – the NOFA-NY annual winter conference and a Cornell potato program showcasing varieties.
In 2008 we had our first grower meetings with over 20 growers, researchers, and extension agents attending. Three additional grower meetings plus a half day session at the NOFA-NY winter conference are planned for the winter of 2008-09.

Milestone 6. Forty growers adopt at least one of the project-trialed potato varieties, resulting in ten additional varieties available to consumers in markets in the northeast.
The 2008 grower trial results will be reviewed to see if any growers have adopted any new varieties as a result of the trialing.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The main measureable outcome at this point is an increased interest by 71 participating growers in evaluating and growing out new potato varieties.


Kate Mendenhall

[email protected]
Executive Director
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York
P.O. Box 880
Cobleskill, NY 12043
Office Phone: 6076526631
Elizabeth Dyck

Organic Growers' Research and Information-sharing Network
1124 County Rd 38
Bainbridge, NY 13733
Office Phone: 6078956913
Keith Perry

[email protected]
Associate Professor
Cornell University
334 Plant Science Bldg.
Dept. Plant Pathology
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072548243
Don Halseth

[email protected]
Associate Professor
Plant Science Bldg.
Department of Horticulture
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072555460