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I recently tried growing potatoes using a method I saw on TV. This is just cutting up potatoes into reasonable sized sections and placing them several inches down. The results have been fantastic.

While doing some research on how to grow potatoes I have read that I should be using seed potatoes, not cuttings from store bought potatoes. The main reason given is disease.

How high is the risk in using cuttings from store bought potatoes? Are there any other reasons that I should use expensive seed potatoes (considering a bag of potatoes is inexpensive and one potato cut up can produce 4 plants)?

Even Yates suggests that it is not entirely necessary:

It’s best to buy the certified disease-free seed potatoes that are available at this time of year, but you can choose healthy potatoes from your vegie drawer

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    Just out of curiousity, what size roughly did you chop them into? – ashes999 Aug 15 '13 at 10:18
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    @ashes999 - I cut them about an inch thick and about 2 - 3 inches in diameter. – going Aug 15 '13 at 21:04
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One would expect that the producers of the seed potatoes are going to be better about keeping their product disease free than your average supermarket, but there are no guarantees in life. As to your chances of getting a bad, disease carrying potato from your supermarket, I'd say that depends on how well you trust that supermarket (though I'd guess it's really very low in any case).

My recommendation for buying potatoes for growing is to go to a local farmers market and pick a variety from there. You are likely to find potatoes that are already grown in your region, and you might be able to directly ask the farmer about disease for that variety, and whether or not it was grown organically.

17

I had an entire potato crop get hit by late blight (which didn't come in via the seed potatoes) a couple of years ago. Fortunately I was able to dig the potatoes and dispose of the plants before the tubers were affected -- they were fine to eat -- but I certainly didn't save any of those for planting the following year since they would be blight hosts.

How will you know if the ones you're buying aren't hosts?

The supermarket has no idea -- nor would they care -- whether the potatoes are carrying blight. As long as the tubers themselves aren't rotten, the market will carry them on the shelves. As a consumer you have no way of knowing if the potatoes were harvested early from a field showing signs of blight.

If you're just gardening for fun and a little fresh food, the risk of losing the whole crop is minimal.

If you're dependent on harvesting potatoes for food or income, you should seriously consider getting certified disease-free seed potatoes.

7

There is another option, although it is not widely practiced. Instead of using "seed potatoes" use "potato seed".

Growing potato starting with true seed

Also, I've had success planting organic potatoes bought at the grocery store that I would have otherwise eaten, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you're having a really hard time finding seed potatoes.

  • Do you mean you've had success planting organic potatoes from seed? Or do you recommend against organic seed potatoes, too? – Flimzy May 2 '12 at 21:33
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    I've never even seen a potato seed in the wild. I've cut up organic potatoes though and they've come out OK - no bug problems or anything. – Peter Turner May 2 '12 at 21:39
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    Several of my potato plants are growing "tomatoes" now. Possibly stress from under watering is causing this. Since they're poisonous I have removed them but they're sitting in a bowl so I can use the seeds at a later date. – Graham Chiu Jan 29 '16 at 20:11
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Although myself, I buy seed potatoes from a garden centre, I know a lot of seasoned gardeners who buy them from the local food store and, after chitting them, if they are larger than a hen's egg, cut them in half. I would think that the chances of their being diseased or of rotting are minimal.

If you want to play it safe, you could let the cut ends dry for a day or two, and then dust them lightly with flowers of sulphur (a fungicide), before planting. I know quite a few old-school gardeners who swear by this method and have excellent crops.

4

Another thing to keep in mind about supermarket potatoes is that they are typically treated with a chemical retardant to slow down the production of "eyes," which are what become the stems of the potato plant.

And you should try to cut the potato so that you have at least 1 if not several "eyes" on each piece that you intend to plant.

3

No need. If you place the potato in a damp(not very damp) place, you will see it grows a bud out of it because potato is a kind of tuber. Tuber play a main role in Vegetative reproduction.

  • It doesn't even have to be damp. Dark and for long enough is usually good enough. if the buds are pretty big and the potato is going soft then we'll often just plant the potatoes rather than eat them. Nothing lost, and often we'll get a meal out of it a few months later – winwaed Jun 27 '11 at 14:07
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You never know the real chances of disease in potatoes at the store, unless they have signs of disease. I wouldn't recommend just buying them as-is and planting them.

Buying seed potatoes gives you some insurance, and they might come with some guarantee (though I wouldn't count on it).

The main reason I personally wouldn't grow grocery store potatoes is that they could be patented, PPAF, PVP, or genetically modified, and that could cause legal and ethical problems (not only, but especially if you're doing it for commercial purposes).

If you buy organic potatoes, the risk of them being genetically engineered should be minimal, but they could still be PVP, PPAF, or such.

Anyway, PVP only applies to true potato seed, anyway, though.

If you're sure there aren't any legal problems with planting the grocery store or farmer's market potatoes, you can always try to disinfect them, somehow. I don't know that it's ever been attempted, but if I were going to plant them, I would zap them in a jar of water with a Z4EX or some such, first. Normally, Hulda Clark zappers are used on humans, in the realm of alternative health care (not by the medical community), but I think it's less arguable that it would have an appreciable ability to disinfect such as seeds and seed potatoes, seeing as zappers have been shown (not with standard studies, though) to kill and/or prevent microbes in vitro. Once again though, this is an experimental idea, and I don't know if it will work, necessarily.

As suggested in another answer, you can grow potatoes from true potato seed instead, too. It takes longer, but there are many advantages (including, supposedly, less problems with seed-born disease). If you don't want new and unpredictable kinds of potatoes, I don't recommend this unless you use Zolushka potato seeds or some such (which should produce the kind of potato advertised). Other advantages may include ease of storage (real seeds take less space), the ability to breed new potatoes (because every seed can produce a new variety, and you can cross them with other fruitful potatoes, too), etc. The tomato-like fruit they produce is supposed to be toxic, though.

I grew true potato seed, this year. I got four plants. One of them contracted a disease, but it didn't spread to the other three, which were in the same container. The disease probably came from the environment and the genetic susceptibility of that particular potato rather than from the seed, however.

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