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

2010 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


Eighty-two organic growers trialed 20 new and heirloom potato varieties on their organic farms with each farm trialing an average of over five different varieties. Of these growers 22 grew at least four 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 and presentations were made at an annual regional organic conference.

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 2010 eighteen new/heirloom varieties were evaluated for the first time and 30 varieties were evaluated and increased for a second year. Thirty-four varieties were increased for a third (or greater) year. From the three prior years of evaluations 20 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 are surveyed, feedback is summarized and distributed to growers.

In 2010, 82 growers evaluated 20 varieties. Twenty-two growers grew at least four of the same varieties for statistical analysis. Twenty-seven different farms were visited with their varieties evaluated for foliar damage from Potato Leafhopper and planted area verified for yield analysis. The 2009 evaluations were compiled and summarized and disseminated at all of our 2010 events. For 2010 completed evaluations are in the process of being compiled and summarized. The 2010 results will be made available at all of our 2011 events.

Milestone 3. Each year, replicated yield trials are conducted at the Cornell organic farm, using 10 of the heirloom and new varieties planted and under evaluation by growers. Data are distributed to growers directly and at educational forums described in milestone 5.

In 2010 a replicated trial of 31 potato varieties was completed including 15 new varieties and 16 varieties from our previous evaluations of new and heirloom varieties. Additionally, 16 varieties were provided for a replicated trial on Long Island. Results will be distributed at all of our events throughout 2011.

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. In 2010 four growers successfully grew out seed from four varieties that will be distributed to other growers in the 2011 season. 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 2010 we had three grower meetings with 105 participants. These events covered the entire state (East, West and Central). Two of the events including blind tasting of trial varieties and intensive discussion of varietal characteristics and optimal management techniques. One event focused on identification and management of tuber diseases.

Forty growers attended a workshop at the annual NOFA-NY winter conference and many conference attendees visited our booth showcasing new varieties and organic management techniques.

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 2010 at least 70 growers have adopted at least one new potato variety, making the total number eight additional varieties. This includes Early Ohio, Papa Cacho, Peter Wilcox, Daisy Gold, Red Maria (NY 129), Aeggeblomme, Purple Finger, and Magic Molly.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Of the 27 farmers visited this year, at least 25 learned to recognize potato leafhopper damage and were made aware of the pest’s potential to severely affect tuber yield and the need for the use of such control measures as resistant varieties.

Of the 42 participants in a workshop focused on tuber diseases, at least 35 learned to identify symptoms of nine major tuber diseases and were introduced to the biology and ecology of these diseases and organic methods for their prevention or control.

Yield analysis over three seasons has identified several growers who are consistently achieving high yields (over 350 cwt/A) under organic management.

Adaptability analysis has shown that one heritage variety (Early Ohio) matched the yield and stability across environments of industry standard variety Chieftain.


Kate Mendenhall
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
Associate Professor
Cornell University
334 Plant Science Bldg.
Dept. Plant Pathology
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072548243
Don Halseth
Associate Professor
Plant Science Bldg.
Department of Horticulture
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072555460