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Do potatoes produce seeds (specifically La Ratte potato) and how do you harvest them? Although I don't fully understand, I am aware that "seed potatoes" are a thing and can be used to grow a new potato plant. I'm looking for a long term storage solution and the ability to plant many additional potato plants from a single parent, preferably by using a actual seed. I'm very new to farming, and I know basically nothing, so if my understanding of any of this is completely wrong then please correct me.

UPDATE

Wow! Thank you all so very much for your very generous and informative comments. I honestly didn't expect this much feedback from such a simple question lol but it is DEEPLY appreciated. Thank you thank you thank you all.

Based on this incredible feedback I would like to add further details about my situation to see if anyone has any further recommendations or would like to add mention anything else based on their previous comments.

I'm a DevOps engineer by trade who's volunteering at a local nonprofit. I saw an opportunity to use my skills to create a fully autonomous and highly scalable aeroponics garden for feeding the needy. We want to grow and distribute fresh and very high quality food to the needy and eventually sell the same crops commercially with all of the proceeds being used to expand our food donation programs.

Is there anything I should be aware of when growing La Ratte potatoes using aeroponics? Also @HagenvonEitzen had mentioned potential "licensing issues" for growing crops commercially. Would purchasing seeds from Seed Savers, Burpee, Arbico Organics and Ferry-Morse be a problem legally speaking and not just for potatoes but for seeds in general? Our goal is to only donate/sale produce that is USDA Non GMO organic (which I believe is the highest grade please correct me if I'm wrong). Does anyone have any recommendations for reputable and low cost seed distributors that offer USDA Non GMO seeds that can be sold commercially? And finally, would growing and distributing food to the needy that was produced from "patented" seeds be a legal issue? Thanks in advance for you feedback!

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Most potatoes, as far as I know, have the ability to flower and set fruit. The fruits, known as berries, are small green globes reminiscent of tomatoes, which makes sense seeing as how they're in the same family. It's very important to note that these fruits are somewhat poisonous, though! The seeds in the berries are viable and can, indeed, be planted for a crop the next year.

But they are not seed potatoes. The term 'seed potato' refers to a single potato that is cut up into pieces, with each piece containing an eye. The eye is the part that sprouts into a new plant. This makes all commercially available potatoes clones.

If you were to harvest potato berries and plant them for a crop, the potatoes you would get would not be the same as the potatoes from which you harvested the berries. They could be better, but odds are that they will be similar to or worse than the original potatoes. This site has more information on potato berries, including timing for harvesting the berries and saving the seeds.

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    In fact the main purpose of growing potatoes from seed is to develop new varieties by cross-fertilizing plants in a controlled environment. Once a good new variety has been discovered, the fastest way to propagate thousands or millions of clones of the original plants is by tissue culture, not by growing the plants conventionally. – alephzero Apr 5 at 4:41
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    Nice answer, so normally seed potatoes are the way to go, but if you are interested in creating new varieties, try to harvest seeds from the berries. What I would like to add is that seeds, when preserved the right way, can be stored for 15 years or even more. See here for more information. – benn Apr 5 at 16:20
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    It is similar to apples, no? If you were to plant from the top fruit seeds, you'll have no idea what you were planting and it could infact be a horrible result. Most "garden" apples are tiny, ugly and disgusting... asexual reproduction is what makes them good. Similar to potatoies, they are important food tubers. They are predictably a good source of nutrition but only if you plant from seed potato, – Stian Yttervik Apr 6 at 6:13
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    @StianYttervik Yes, exactly. The seeds are children - they are genetically different from the parents because they contain genes from both sexual parents. Potatoes grown from seed potatoes are clones, however, like apple trees grown from grafts - they are genetically identical and produce the same type of apple or potato. – J... Apr 6 at 14:25
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    @StianYttervik - I think there's one difference between apples and potatoes, but this is anecdotal not backed by any science that I know of - I believe that you'd have better luck getting a decent potato from seed than you would getting an "eater" apple (as opposed to a "spitter" or cider apple). This is based on cross-pollinated heirloom tomatoes producing a decent-tasting first generation crop - same family, so I'd expect similar results. – Jurp Apr 6 at 16:21
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The tubers that are used for "seed potatoes" are grown and harvested exactly the same way as other potatoes, except for one thing.

Like other members of the same plant family (e.g. tomatoes), potatoes are are easily infected with virus diseases. Some of these (like "potato blight") are serious and may cause the entire crop to fail. Others don't have any visible effect on the plant (and are also harmless to humans who eat the potatoes), but they will survive in the potatoes you harvest and can also survive for years in the soil.

If you plant potato tubers that are infected with such viruses, the only thing you will "see" is that you get a smaller crop than you expected, which is obviously a bad thing if you are growing commercially. If you continue doing this for several years the virus will accumulate in the soil so that even if you plant uninfected seed potatoes, they will become infected at soon as they start to grow.

Virus spores can also be carried by the wind, so your infected potato crop can infect others that are being grown several miles away.

"Seed potatoes" are grown in carefully chosen locations with the right climate to minimize the risk of virus infection. (For example, in the UK most seed potatoes are grown in Scotland, not in the main potato growing areas of England). The climate for growing seed potatoes often doesn't produce a crop of fully grown "large" potatoes, but that doesn't matter for producing seed to be grown elsewhere the following year. If there is no commercial potato growing in the area, the risk of virus infection from outside sources is reduced.

A seed potato crop will also be tested for virus diseases by sending samples to a testing laboratory, both during the growing season and after harvesting.

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    Blight is a fungal disease (or a range of fungal diseases) not viral. And viruses don't produce spores, in the way that fungi and some bacteria can. – James K Apr 5 at 17:17
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    As you mention commercial production, there are also licensing issues IIRC, i.e., it may not be legal to use your potato leftovers from your local supermarket to grow more than your own consumption – Hagen von Eitzen Apr 5 at 20:15
  • @HagenvonEitzen Licensing issues? Would a love a reference for that! IMHO, when you purchase something, you can use it for anything you feel like! Potato batteries are a thing! Build a self driving vehicle powered by a potato. I guess planting and growing is obvious. Would be great to see a supplier explicitly forbid eating the product in the small-print, and trolling all the clients: police arriving at homes, customers leaving in handcuffs, fries still on the stove! – Reversed Engineer Apr 7 at 10:40
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    @ReversedEngineer Alas, concerns about licensing patented plants are indeed real - even potatoes have been patented: psmag.com/news/…. Planting patented potatoes cost these Indian farmers $143,000 each. – Jurp Apr 7 at 14:08
  • Are tomatoes grown from the berry seeds less susceptible to blight than ones grown from the eye? (I thought you were going to say that. ;-) – Mike Waters Apr 7 at 19:53
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There are already good general answers to this question, but I will add a couple of specifics. La Ratte is male and female fertile variety, so it is capable of producing seeds without a pollinator. If there are no other male fertile varieties nearby, the seeds will be self-pollinated. Self-pollinated seeds of La Ratte produce mostly tubers similar to the parent: white skin fingerlings or oval tubers with white to light yellow flesh on mid to late season plants. It is important to recognize that these seedling varieties will be genetically distinct from La Ratte. Each will be a new variety, which you can maintain by replanting the tubers. The odds that you would get something as good as La Ratte when evaluated across a wide range of traits are low, but the odds that you would get something reasonably productive and tasty that would be unique to your garden are high. It is also worth noting that La Ratte gives some progeny with high glycoalkaloid content, so you should be alert for bitter flavor in the seedlings and discard those, as bitterness indicates higher glycoalkaloid content. You wouldn't get anything too dangerous from a self-pollinated domesticated potato, but you could make yourself sick by eating too much of a bitter potato.

True potato seeds do have a significant storage advantage over tubers, since seed tubers must be planted and regenerated every year. True potato seeds retain good germination for about five years at room temperature, but can last 50 years or more when fully dried and stored in the freezer.

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Replying to the update:

I am not an expert at growing aeroponic or hydroponic potatoes. In fact, I have never done it. I do know a thing or two about potatoes though, so take this on the balance. Normally, aeroponics is used to grow seed potatoes, not potatoes for eating. The problem is that you need to input an enormous amount of energy to get potatoes to mature size under artificial light. In conventional hydroponic systems, the focus is on early varieties for new potatoes, where you can turn over crops quickly and get a premium price that justifies the high cost. La Ratte is a late season potato. You would need to keep it under lights for a minimum of four months. Whether or not this makes sense will depend on your power costs, but to compete commercially, you will be up against a majority of growers who produced their potatoes under free sunlight.

You don't need to worry much about intellectual property restrictions or GMO with seed potatoes in the USA. There are a few varieties under PVP (plant variety protection), which you would not be allowed to produce commercially without permission, but those will be clearly noted as long as you buy from a reputable seed potato supplier. The few GMO varieties are only available with a contract. Don't start with stock from the grocery store and you won't have to worry about these things.

And then to the comment:

This gets into an area where opinions diverge wildly and the specifics differ by crop. There are relatively few IP restricted potatoes, but corn is overwhelmingly genetically modified and covered under some kind of IP protection. The odds of contamination with GM genetics are very low in an insect pollinated crop like potatoes, particularly since almost nobody grows potatoes from seed anyway. In a wind pollinated crop like corn, where pollen can travel miles and the crop is grown from the seed, there is a much higher risk of contamination. Whether or not these things actually happen or actually matter if they do, the idea still bothers people.

With potatoes, varieties under patents or PVP are overwhelmingly directed at large scale producers. Their improvements tend to matter little to gardeners or small farmers, being things like improved disease resistance that are of greatest value under monocrop conditions, but they can make a difference when you grow commodity potatoes for processing and your profit is less than a penny per potato. Organic farmers tend to focus on fresh eating types that are usually managed more attentively and don't require the same kind of optimization. Many of the most popular fresh eating varieties for organic conditions are 50 years old or more. They generally won't perform well under conditions that are difficult for potatoes or where disease pressure is high but, on a small scale, you probably wouldn't notice much difference between a quality heirloom and a cutting edge GMO commodity potato.

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  • Fantastic, absolutely fantastic! Thank you VERY much for this reply. The information you provided regarding both the growth practices using aeroponics and the IP information has been immensely helpful. Ironically this does raise another question however if you won't wind explaining this as well. I've heard strong opposition against companies such as Monsantos. Could you please explain how they fit into all of this if I don't have to worry about most plant varieties in general being protected by IP and what the so call "advantages" would be of using their seeds if any exist? Thanks :) – at0micV3n0m Apr 7 at 21:00
  • Awesome, thank you so much for the update. We plan to start out by growing approximately 5-7 different crop varieties, including corn, and continue beyond that as we grow. I presume that just as the potatoes are PVP labeled and/or require a individual to sign a contract all other crop varieties in general, not just corn or potatoes, will have similar labels that will inform us of which ones we can't grow commercially correct? – at0micV3n0m Apr 7 at 22:08

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