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

2011 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


Thirty-eight organic growers trialed 25 new and heirloom potato varieties on their land, with each grower trialing an average of seven different varieties. Project participants and staff presented results at two regional organic grower conferences. To assess project impact, a survey was sent out to over 100 project participants. A site dedicated to reporting results of the project was established on the web. A poster on the project will be presented at the Northeast Organic Research Symposium in January 2012.

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).
From the four prior years of evaluations, 25 varieties were made available for grower trials in 2011.

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.
Given keen grower interest and availability of planting stock from Cornell, an additional year of grower trialing was undertaken in 2011, with 38 growers evaluating 25 varieties. Because of heavy rains in the spring and fall, planting and harvesting, and thus reporting, were delayed, and the 2011 completed evaluations are still in the process of being compiled and analyzed. These will be included in the project final report and the project results that will be disseminated to growers through the project webpages ( and at grower meetings and conferences.

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.
As stipulated in the project workplan, replicated trials were conducted on organically certified land at the Cornell Freeville Farm in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Results have been compiled and have been disseminated to growers at project events and are being incorporated into reports and factsheets to be posted on the project’s webpages.

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. Some of this material was distributed to growers for 2011 trialing and has been tracked to document any quality or disease issues. One additional double certified seed grower started in 2009, bringing the total double certified seed producers to two. However, in 2010, one double-certified grower ceased production. The project has continued to work with growers who are interested in developing seed potato enterprises.

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.

At the annual winter NOFA-NY conference in January 2011, two grower trialers and a double-certified seed producer presented at a workshop on the project that was attended by 30 people. Project staff conducted a workshop at the annual NOFA summer conference in August that had 28 participants. Both workshops provided information on high-performing varieties identified through the project, but the second also focused on management techniques of trialers that result in consistently high yields. The project was also featured at a seminar on farmer participatory research at Cornell in November.
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.

Preliminary analysis of a grower survey conducted in late 2011 suggests that significant numbers of growers (ten or more) have adopted the varieties Red Maria, Magic Molly, Papa Cacho, Daisy Gold, Early Ohio, and Bernadette. The varieties Peter Wilcox, Pentland Crown, Purple Fingers, and Aeggeblomme have also been adopted by multiple growers. A variety newly trialed in 2011, Rose Valley, is also in demand by growers for planting in 2012.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

A thorough discussion of the project’s impacts and outcomes will be included in the final report, but preliminary analysis of the project’s final survey suggests that, in addition to adoption of high-performing potato varieties, project participants have adopted improved management practices, particularly cultural practices that reduce risk of potato disease.


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