Author Topic: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)  (Read 4335 times)

reed

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #15 on: 2019-03-24, 06:29:04 AM »
I changed the name of this thread to better reflect my ultimate goal. Sweet potatoes that reliably produce food and seeds, from seed, in 100 days or less.

Achieving that will meet my needs of a staple food crop that requires no special storage requirements, that can provide food from harvest easily until the following planting time. It may even be possible to store food quality roots all the way till the next harvest, I intend to test that limit this year.

Reliable seed production insures the next years crop in the event all stored roots are eaten or lost. Innate longevity of sweet potato seeds adds an additional layer to food security. Sweet potatoes are or have potential to be a nearly perfect small scale, sustainable, staple food crop. Breeding for short maturity time moves this potential into regions not ordinarily know for sweet potato production and more importantly in my case, increases chances of a successful harvest in the event of adverse weather or other detrimental events.

So, I'm getting exited about starting this years crop. I think this makes the 6th season since I discovered my first sweet potato seeds and it has been really fun finding all the new kinds that have showed up from the original crosses. All of my houseplant clones are looking great and all of my saved roots have kept nicely. In about a month I'll be sprouting slips.

I have I think eight new ones this year, a couple from the grocery store, a couple local ones gifted from other gardeners and some I ordered which should arrive in May. I'll be planting them all in 3 - 5 gallon pots to test for my preferred "clump root" trait. They will all be trellised this year to help protect from rabbits and make seed collection easier.

I'm gonna grow a few of each kind and dig some, starting maybe as early as July so I can compare root size and storage ability at different stages. I discovered that large roots can be removed and the plant replanted without significant reduction in seeds. Also gonna do more experimenting with eating the greens.

Still struggling with my decision, due to space constraints to not start any new seeds. I'm not sure I can stand to do that and since I also want them to not be picky about germination conditions I will probably sow at least a hundred or so in the cold frame like I do tomatoes. Any that sprout quick in those conditions will be kept even if I have to scale back on some other project to make room. 
« Last Edit: 2019-03-24, 06:31:11 AM by reed »

Nicollas

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #16 on: 2019-03-25, 06:43:29 AM »
This is a great goal !

Please keep us updated

Andrew Barney

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #17 on: 2019-03-25, 07:59:18 AM »
This project has me very excited! Can't wait until this project evolves enough that I feel comfortable requesting seed samples to try. But I love the goal! I think it is totally possible with a little work. I love the True seed projects for all the cloned crops.

Richard Watson

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #18 on: 2019-03-25, 12:49:04 PM »
This is a very interesting project alright, I'm really getting a kick out of being involved. I suppose the goal would be 90+% of seed sown producing an acceptable crop yield, tubers close to stem, taste while still been a good seed producer. Be interesting to see what happens over the coming year with the colours, will they merge or still throw the variables like at present   
Changeable year round climate with warming winters - just under 500mm average yearly rainfall. 20 years of soil improvements plus sub soil top soil reversal means my garden beds are about half metre deep. Below that is 100's of metres of alluvial out wash from the Southern
alps.

reed

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #19 on: 2019-03-25, 01:48:57 PM »
This is a very interesting project alright, I'm really getting a kick out of being involved. I suppose the goal would be 90+% of seed sown producing an acceptable crop yield, tubers close to stem, taste while still been a good seed producer.
Now don't be gettin too far ahead of things, right now I'm shooting for 50% in short term at least. I already have some that are pretty close to the other criteria but need to grow them in isolation with themselves to find out self compatibility and the like, lots more along those lines to do, not sure there even is an end to that tunnel, let alone a light at it.
Be interesting to see what happens over the coming year with the colours, will they merge or still throw the variables like at present   
I hope they keep the color variability and think they will for at least a good long time. Just too many things not in the original parents have sown up to think they will easily settle into something fixed. Or maybe I'll find various ones reasonably stable for a particular color combination / flavor, that would be sweet. 




Richard Watson

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #20 on: 2019-03-25, 05:53:17 PM »
I'm really talking the loonng term goal, a lot to be done before then I know, Ive gota get bloody seed yet.
Changeable year round climate with warming winters - just under 500mm average yearly rainfall. 20 years of soil improvements plus sub soil top soil reversal means my garden beds are about half metre deep. Below that is 100's of metres of alluvial out wash from the Southern
alps.

reed

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #21 on: 2019-03-26, 06:39:41 AM »
Of course the higher that percentage the better but since a lot of them make a lot of seeds it still provides the insurance needed to restart your crop in the event all clones are lost even if it is as low as 10%. And all along the way a gardener can keep accumulating good ones as clones.

What I hope, is that by growing those good ones together and gradually culling the  poorer ones is that each years new seeds just keep getting better and better.  I call it genetic distillation, that's what I'v done so far and seems to be working pretty good. It will mostly be put on hold this year I guess in favor of trying to introduce new genes in the mix.

But then there is another problem that a lot of those very good at making seeds are not so good at making roots, although they might be fine for eating the greens. But without sizable roots to store they have to be kept over winter as plants which is another problem.

And still another problem I've encountered is some that have what I'm calling the "super bloom" trait make very few or even no seeds at all. Why not? I have no clue. Is this female sterility inheritable? Should I completely eliminate them as soon as I see they are not setting capsules? Should I discard seeds form other plants  that formed or were in process of forming prior to those being culled? This trait reveals itself early enough that it would be possible to do that and still get more seed from the others so as pretty as those are I may start doing that.  (I think these might be the selfed offspring of other good bloomers)

On the other hand I think it is possible that some are only compatible some particular other one which might explain tons of flowers but no seeds then all of a sudden seeds start to form when a much later flowering plant started blooming.

I don't have near enough experience or documentation to say for sure but there seems to be a relationship between those that make fewer seeds having the best roots and the most interesting color combinations in the roots. They also seem to make although fewer seeds, the best seeds. They are bigger, there is usually a full four per capsule and they seem to sprout the fastest.  They have just two to maybe four flowers per peduncle instead of a dozen but they have them at nearly every leaf joint and they very rarely abort after pollination. They are much longer vines with much longer internodes. Most of those that have volunteered from lost seeds were like this.

Lots of questions but lots of fun trying to figure it all out.

« Last Edit: 2019-03-26, 07:23:59 AM by reed »

reed

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #22 on: 2019-04-06, 07:27:24 AM »
I'm chomping at the bit to get some sweet potatoes going but guess I'll hold off a little bit longer, still some danger of frost and I don't want a bunch of plants to keep inside or covered. On the other hand I came across some more information, it answers some questions I had especially about maturity plus other useful information.

SandHill website has a great information page on growing them. [url = https://www.sandhillpreservation.com/sweet-potato-growing-information]https://www.sandhillpreservation.com/sweet-potato-growing-information[/url] it describes maturity as
Quote
Early - at 90 days here in Iowa these have reached full size.
Early/Midseason- at 90 days  the majority of roots are full sized and mature.
Mid-season - at 90 days here in Iowa these still have roots that need a few more weeks to bulk up.
Late - at 90 days here in Iowa these only have about 25% of the roots mature.
Very Late - really nothing much at 90 days.  These need around 140 days.
All of my original varieties, or at least those that did well, except for the ornamental one came from their early group. Now to meet my goal of mature roots in 100 days or less from seed I may need to do some selection, but I think it is possible.

Their info on to talk about some very interesting stuff concerning GDD and storability related to root size. 
Quote
This is the most important thing when it comes to sweet potatoes.  It is the heat units that determines success, not the number of days nor plant zone, but heat units.  I have been an avid weather observer for over 40 years and have files of weather data to go with files of planting data.  A few years ago , thanks to the help of one of our workers, I was able to put the two sets of data together and arrive at some conclusions that I had already suspected, but had never had the time to confirm.  It takes about 1200 heat units for our early varieties to reach a decent crop of usable size roots.  I use the term usable size as I think for many a sweet potato the size of a nice fat bratwurst is about the best size for keeping and for baking.  Bigger than that is okay, but they do not sprout as well nor keep as well because they suffer from bruising much easier.   

All very very interesting stuff, can't believe I missed it before on their web site, anyway glad I came across it. Concerning the heat units and this also relates to climate change I did some research a couple years ago at the time concerned with corn and made a chart of heat units for my location. Looks like I easily have the required 1200 in any two month period, enough maybe I can do two (seed to seed) cycles in one year. Again, even though I have a fairly long season, I breed and select for short season maturity. Learning to avoid excessive GDD by planting earlier or growing in shade may actually become more important that season length.


« Last Edit: 2019-04-06, 07:40:29 AM by reed »

Oxbow Farm

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #23 on: 2019-04-08, 05:28:20 AM »
Hi Reed,

It is true there is a ton of useful information on Sandhill Preservation,  especially about Sweet potatoes.  I find their sweet potato variety list a bit daunting to deal with though, since it is just a big list. It can be quite difficult and time consuming to wade through. 

I am looking for your advice as to proper timing for starting these true Sweet Potato seeds?  Now that I have some I am eager to get them started but I don't want to jump the gun either.  When is the right time to start them?

reed

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #24 on: 2019-04-08, 06:56:35 AM »
Hi Reed,

It is true there is a ton of useful information on Sandhill Preservation,  especially about Sweet potatoes.  I find their sweet potato variety list a bit daunting to deal with though, since it is just a big list. It can be quite difficult and time consuming to wade through. 

I am looking for your advice as to proper timing for starting these true Sweet Potato seeds?  Now that I have some I am eager to get them started but I don't want to jump the gun either.  When is the right time to start them?

All of the seeds I sent you came form varieties that meet the Sandhill definition of early, well except for the one ornamental ancestor which starts blooming when very small. It didn't make much as far as roots but some of it's crossed descendants do. 

How you start your seeds is important. They like it hot but I don't artificially provide that, my germination rate in first week or so is very low, maybe 15% tops but all your seeds came from ones started like that. I think Joseph and Mike had much much higher germ rates using controlled and much warmer germination practice. I'm selecting for less picky ones and I have lots of seeds so I don't mind losing 85% of them .

I think in a shorter season climate and with limited number of seeds I would sprout em like they did to get the maximum and fastest germination. Just figure out the period when you'll have night time lows above 50 and time to accumulate 1200 GDD  and start about three to four weeks (they grow slow at first) in front of that.

I normally start mine about mid April to plant mid to late May but I'm not starting many seeds this year. Those I do I'm doing in an unheated cold frame instead of inside and probably not till first of May. I want to keep pushing for easy sprouting and if possible tolerance to cooler temps along with fast maturity.

« Last Edit: 2019-04-08, 08:05:34 AM by reed »

reed

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #25 on: 2019-04-30, 07:51:30 AM »
Well I couldn't stand the thought of not stating any new seeds at all this year so I put some out in the cold frame. With all the slips from ones I'v saved and all the new ones I have ordered calling for more space than I easily have for grow outs, I almost hoped they wouldn't come up or at least not while it was still cool. If they laid there till June or so I would have considered them too heat loving and wouldn't have minded just forgetting them but 3 out of about 50 popped up in a couple days so now I'm obligated at least for those three.

It's gonna take a 1/4 of my total garden space but I guess that's OK. I hauled over a bunch of partially composted wood chips last fall and spread it around in one corner of the garden about a foot deep. Week or so ago I tilled it all up good to mix it with soil so now I have plenty of easy to get material to fill the pots and I have plenty of pots collected. I'll use that same area to set the pots and mulch heavy around and between with more of the rotting chips. Old fence and posts are on hand for the trellising and I'm gonna try to space them a little better this year so I can tell them apart. All in all I think it should be easier this year observe differences between plants and most important easier to stay on top of seed collection. I even have good intentions of recording and saving individually from each mother plant rather than dumping them all together, will see how that goes. I definitely will save earliest seeds separately as I'v done before and I may even dig and examine roots of those plants at the point of first mature seed. 

Most of the slips and overwintered house plant starts I'm using are from my "good seeder & good root" plants with emphasis on the "clump root" trait that I like.  I considered dropping the "super bloomers" because they make crappy roots but decided it is too early in the project to do that. I think a lot of them are self compatible and may have ability to unlock seeding in others, especially those that are thought of as female sterile which a couple of the new ones I'v ordered are. I don't believe they really are, they just haven't met the right father yet, I'll find out.

So, I'll see how it goes this year. I hope to get thousands of seeds and especially hope to add in new genetics from the new varieties. If I'm successful in that I'll consider the first phase of this project more or less complete and move on to  continuing selection for easy sprouting, short maturity, clump root and so on ending ultimately with seed grown annual sweet potatoes; making the storage of roots of this important food crop an option rather than a necessity.

It would be pretty cool to have them like what Joseph is working on in his tomatoes, compatible between plants but not within a single individual, but I don't have a clue on how to go about doing that.
« Last Edit: 2019-04-30, 08:15:26 AM by reed »

reed

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #26 on: 2019-05-14, 05:00:11 AM »
ALL of my sweet potatoes, roots producing slips, houseplant clones and this years sprouts are out in the cold frame and looking pretty good. Last couple days it turned cold, not freezing but well under the 50 F threshold of happiness for sweet potatoes. Last night mid 30 s was predicted and I contemplated bringing them in or at least putting blankets or something over the frames but I decided heck with it. They were not going to freeze and worst that might happen is they would be slowed down a little. And I'm selecting for quick maturity, even if they are delayed I bet they would produce just fine if not planted till July, plus they like heat and tolerate drought. It actually only got to 44 F this morning and that's warmer than the last two.

I also realized a primary goal of this project, that of having a nice archive of seeds, is already achieved.  As long as ya got a nice stash of seeds, loss of even all the plants would just be a set back not a total disaster. 

My new ones I ordered won't even ship till late this month so it should all still work out fine. Looking forward to getting the new genetics mixed in and from then on never buying another one.
« Last Edit: 2019-05-14, 05:01:42 AM by reed »

Richard Watson

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #27 on: 2019-05-14, 01:59:29 PM »
Thats why I have to be every care with my plant having no seed back up, though spreading them around the country helps give the project more security, ive sent most of the batch of cuttings up to the North Island and they are doing fine, a second lot sent south took three weeks to make the 400km trip, %$#* NZ Post, they were completely buggered on arrival.

Changeable year round climate with warming winters - just under 500mm average yearly rainfall. 20 years of soil improvements plus sub soil top soil reversal means my garden beds are about half metre deep. Below that is 100's of metres of alluvial out wash from the Southern
alps.

reed

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #28 on: 2019-05-19, 08:29:14 AM »
I'm a little later than last year getting my clones ready but that's OK as the new ones I ordered won't be shipped for at least another week. Any way below is a picture that shows how I do that with the houseplant clones. Slips are similar of course but you just pluck them off the root. 

I don't think it is good to just replant a plant you've kept over winter as it will be root bound. Sandhill advises against potting a slip and letting it get roots before planting and I think that is real good advise. They just won't produce good if you do that. Just a couple small roots or even no roots at all assuming it is warm and you keep them very wet for a couple days is best.

You can see the root bound mess this plant is in, so I just clip of some tips and reroot them in sand and water. The sand is just to hold them in place a little and make the cup bottom heavy. These new clones should be ready to plant in just two to three days.

This particular plant was a volunteer last year and spent most of it's life buried under some tomato vines, it didn't make any roots to speak of but it bloomed nice. I think no roots was due more to that only a few of it's leaves found any sunlight till I ripped out the tomatoes rather than the fact it came up late.  I was pleasantly surprised to see it made a cute little root in it's pot over winter. Only the good rooters do that

Sorry about the poor image quality and the ugly writing over it.
« Last Edit: 2019-05-19, 08:43:33 AM by reed »

Richard Watson

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Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #29 on: 2019-05-19, 01:27:33 PM »


I don't think it is good to just replant a plant you've kept over winter as it will be root bound. Sandhill advises against potting a slip and letting it get roots before planting and I think that is real good advise. They just won't produce good if you do that. Just a couple small roots or even no roots at all assuming it is warm and you keep them very wet for a couple days is best.



This has been something Ive done for the past three years with my wintered over Kumara plants, mind you I use large pots though, maybe this helps as I still get reasonable roots from them. I will still do what you are doing come spring but have two separate beds, one for tuber growing and the other for the plants that I'm wintering aimed for getting seed, a large well established plant by the time the summer heat kicks in should give me the best chance I feel.
Changeable year round climate with warming winters - just under 500mm average yearly rainfall. 20 years of soil improvements plus sub soil top soil reversal means my garden beds are about half metre deep. Below that is 100's of metres of alluvial out wash from the Southern
alps.