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

2009 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


Ninety-two organic growers trialed 25 new and heirloom potato varieties on their organic farms with each farm trialing an average of 5 different varieties. Of these growers 25 grew at least three of the same varieties for statistical analysis. Many of the same varieties were also trialed in a replicated organic trial and additional new varieties were evaluated at the Cornell research farm. Three gatherings of organic potato growers were held, presentations at two conferences were made, and project staff was heavily consulted by growers concerning potato late blight.

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 2009 47 new/heirloom varieties were evaluated for the first time and 43 varieties were evaluated and increased for a second year. Twenty-eight varieties were increased for a third year. From the three prior years of evaluations 25 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 2009, 92 growers evaluated 25 varieties. Twenty five growers grew at least three of the same varieties for statistical analysis. Twenty-two different farms were visited. The 2008 evaluations were compiled and summarized and disseminated at all of our 2009 events. For 2009 completed evaluations are in the process of being compiled and summarized. The 2009 results will be made available all of our 2010 events

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 2009 a replicated trial of 30 potato varieties was completed including two new varieties and 11 varieties from our previous evaluations of new and heirloom varieties. Results were handed out at the November 2009 Organic Potato show n’tell and will be distributed at all of our events throughout 2010.

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.
Throughout the 2009 winter grower meetings we discussed putting together a grower seed-sharing network and the logistics and feasibility of doing this. Despite an interest in potato seed saving there was concern expressed on how best to do this without distributing diseases and viruses from one farm to the next. The widespread late blight epidemic in the summer of 2009 bore this out and also made it not possible for growers to share seed with each other. We are investigating other techniques for increasing and distributing seed of varieties that are not currently commercially available. One additional double certified seed grower started in 2009 bringing the total double certified seed producers to two.

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 2009 we had three grower meetings with 99 growers, researchers, and extension agents attending. Thirty-six growers attended a half day session at the annual NOFA-NY conference. We also made a presentation at the annual NOFA summer conference and participated in a panel on Late blight attended by 150 people.

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.
As of 2009 at least 40 growers have adopted at least one new potato variety making the total number to six additional varieties. This includes Early Ohio, Papa Cacho, Peter Wilcox, Daisy Gold, NY 129, and Magic Molly.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

One additional double certified seed grower has begun production in New York State and had a successful season. This increases the availability of double certified potato seed in the state.

At least 18 of the 22 growers that were formally visited learned first hand how to identify late blight with the assistance of a trained expert. Additionally growers learned to identify late blight through workshops and panel discussions. Timely distribution of information on late blight undoubtedly helped growers better manage late blight in their crops in 2009 but the effect is difficult to measure.

All the participants (29) of the virus identification workshop learned how to identify prevalent potato viruses that will help them better decide when to or not to save seed and how to better rogue their potato crop.

As the project progresses we will survey growers to evaluate how their practices have changed throughout their participation in the project.


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