Author Topic: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)  (Read 13352 times)

S.Simonsen

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 95
  • Karma: 7
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #225 on: 2020-10-20, 06:03:31 AM »
I would be careful about early selection without checking correlation to mature characteristics. There is a chance you will select out genetics that forms good roots but doesnt look promising early on for some reason. Then again if you are aiming for an annual crop that is routinely grown from seed then maybe early root formation is a useful trait to select for. I am a few years behind you and working toward different end goals but should get time to check for correlations between root size over lifespan. I wonder if there are non-destructive ways to evaluate root development over time. Maybe just clearing soil away from the crown to check the main tuber?

reed

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 676
  • Karma: 41
  • Narrow Ridge above the Ohio River zone 6a
    • View Profile
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #226 on: 2020-10-20, 06:53:28 AM »
Yep, my primary goal has been and I think still is, making them an annual seed grown crop. Eliminating the necessity of keeping living plant material over winter is to me the best way to insure food security. Crop failure one year, losing or eating all the stored roots, just start over with the seeds. But now as I'm seeing more and more very nice ones I'm getting more remorseful over discarding those that have potential to be a great new cloned variety, I have at least six in that category this year. Those very sweet, purple/yellow ones especially come to mind. They certainly will be cloned next year to increase those traits in the next generation seeds but they may all be eaten after that.

Yes you can just dig around a little and get an idea of what kind of roots are forming. I do that a lot to see if my preferred "clump root"  type is forming and what color they are, I might even scratch it a little to see what color it is inside but I haven't really used it for selecting other than maybe putting a ribbon on any really good ones.

Lots and lots of opportunities and directions to explore that I don't have space and time for. I'm still hopeful to make a partnership with one seed companies. If not then I might look into something like SARE grants or maybe some kind of partnership with EFN.
« Last Edit: 2020-10-20, 06:55:33 AM by reed »

S.Simonsen

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 95
  • Karma: 7
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #227 on: 2020-10-20, 03:16:45 PM »
I am a big fan of seed grown crops as well for the same reasons. Another big factor is scaleability. If you suddenly need to grow a much bigger area of a crop then a vegetatively propagated plant can take several years to get up to scale. By contrast a seed grown crop (from a conveniently stored bag of seed) can instantly fill the space in one season. Sweet potato is one of the few vegetatively propagated plants though that has enormous potential for rapid scaling up since every short section of stem can grow a new plant.

Human attention really is the rate limiting ingredient in plant breeding (I saw Bill Whitson say as much). Makes you sad to think about all the human attention wasted on frivolous things when they could be deciding if a particular seedling was tasty or pretty enough to be worth propagating from.

nathanp

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 76
  • Karma: 11
    • View Profile
    • Kenosha Potato Project - Facebook page
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #228 on: 2020-10-20, 04:48:13 PM »
Speaking of vegetative propagation of sweet potatoes.  Are sweet potatoes truly indeterminate, or are there some varieties that are actually determinate?  Could you continually propagate vegetatively over and over again for as long as your growing season length allowed? 

Compared to Solanum tuberosum potatoes, where there are no true indeterminate varieties (I would argue all are determinate, it is just a matter of how long before the senesce).  Even very long season potatoes do not grow forever, though short dormancy potatoes can be continually harvested and replanted without requiring storage. 

Have a true indeterminate crop seems to me to be an advantage in this way, as long as it is able to produce food continually while it remains alive.


reed

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 676
  • Karma: 41
  • Narrow Ridge above the Ohio River zone 6a
    • View Profile
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #229 on: 2020-10-20, 06:08:13 PM »
Speaking of vegetative propagation of sweet potatoes.  Are sweet potatoes truly indeterminate, or are there some varieties that are actually determinate?  Could you continually propagate vegetatively over and over again for as long as your growing season length allowed? 
Not really sure how the term indeterminant applies to sweet potatoes. I think in a sense immortal might be more applicable. Of course every time you clip of a stem to clone, the cloned plant starts over and needs the necessary time to grow another harvestable crop of roots but you can do it over and over as long as you want. The mother plant is unaffected. Cloning is how it has traditionally always been, except by saving a root and sprouting slips from it the next spring.

A sweet potato that sprouts from a seed in late April can be cut back and cloned in May or June and made into several plants with little to no noticeable effect on the original plant. This could easily continue longer but new plants much later than say, mid July won't have time to make much.

Sweet potatoes don't really mature, not in the sense a tomato ripens or a green bean fills out. Mature is just when roots are big enough to be worthwhile to harvest. I guess different ones take more or less time for that.


« Last Edit: 2020-10-20, 06:14:47 PM by reed »

reed

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 676
  • Karma: 41
  • Narrow Ridge above the Ohio River zone 6a
    • View Profile
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #230 on: 2020-10-21, 02:11:14 AM »
The fellers down south are discussing needing to scarify seeds to get better germination and that has me thinking about that again. A linked article in Chris's post has a line that I take exception too.
"a gardener must scarify the seeds prior to planting"

One of the research papers I have saved from the 1980's talks about scarifying in detail. It is the one that mentions sulfuric acid. I suspect that's because they were working in such volume it was easier to do that than something on individual seeds. They had hundreds of varieties from all over the world in their work.

Regarding blooming and seeds they say that forcing blooms by cloning on different plants or other methods will carry poor blooming into the next generation. And they said if you start with plants that bloom at least a little on their own it only takes three to four generations to fully restore blooming in all the offspring. I think that is true, as some original parents only bloomed a little or only bloomed very late in the season. Now pretty much all new plants bloom early and lots. AND they said that blooming did not negatively impact root production. I can confirm that too! ;D

So by the same logic scarifying will do the same thing and lead to the next generation also being hard to sprout so I refuse to do it. I don't want them to ever completely lose the hard seed coat because I speculate it is also what makes them able to live so long in storage. But I doubt that losing it completely is something I ever really need to worry about.

A single nicely seedy plant can make hundreds of seeds in a season. So for a direct planted annual crop just plant 3 to 4 times more seeds than you need. Around 1/2 will sprout that year and about 1/2 of those will do it soon enough to make a harvest so if you want 25 plans, plant 100 seeds. The later ones could be used for greens and I'm thinking maybe the ones that don't sprout till the next year should also just be used for greens or discarded.
« Last Edit: 2020-10-21, 02:18:31 AM by reed »

Lauren

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 142
  • Karma: 14
  • Utah, USA, 4000 ft
    • View Profile
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #231 on: 2020-10-25, 09:42:11 AM »
The instructions for other plants say much the same--plant three or four and thin to the strongest. This way you just avoid the thinning step. The plants are self selecting for the strongest. Makes a lot more sense to me.


reed

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 676
  • Karma: 41
  • Narrow Ridge above the Ohio River zone 6a
    • View Profile
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #232 on: 2020-10-26, 07:02:18 AM »
Probably still a problem if you want to just direct plant. They need to be 18" apart in a row to produce good. My luck if I planted say 4 seeds in each spot spaced that way all four would come up in some and none in others. Wouldn't be a very big problem though cause they transplant so easy.

Chris Morrison

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 96
  • Karma: 3
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #233 on: 2020-10-27, 04:42:08 AM »
yep transplant, but force those tight ol bangers to sprout
you will not be disappointed imho
I am not after the Ford Edsel of SP...
Its nature after all ....think that thru?

reed

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 676
  • Karma: 41
  • Narrow Ridge above the Ohio River zone 6a
    • View Profile
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #234 on: 2020-10-27, 04:11:10 PM »
Well, I been thinkin on it but not quite figured it out. The Edsel, big to do in marketing and stuff but nobody wanted it. I want to grow sweet potatoes from seeds, easy. No fuss no muss. Probably not gonna be a big hit in the commercial world but I don't care. If nobody else want's them I'll just keep them all to myself.

I play a little game where I pretend I could still produce food to eat even after a total collapse of the industrial, commercial un-civilization and haven't found anything else with the same promise as an easy sprouting sweet potato seed. 

Richard Watson

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 446
  • Karma: 26
  • South Island - New Zealand
    • View Profile
    • Sentinels Group Seeds
    • Email
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #235 on: 2020-10-27, 05:51:44 PM »
Probably not gonna be a big hit in the commercial world but I don't care. If nobody else want's them I'll just keep them all to myself.
I dont know about, as I may have already pointed out that on our Sentinels website one of the best sellers is TPS, when it was first put up we thought it would be a poor seller. I reckon Ipomoea batatas would be of interest to quite a few gardeners, but, its down side at the stage is the poor germination rate
Changeable climate manly during winter & spring - 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

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 676
  • Karma: 41
  • Narrow Ridge above the Ohio River zone 6a
    • View Profile
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #236 on: 2020-10-28, 01:07:11 AM »
In my garden and climate potatoes are completely worthless. I tried three years growing from seeds. I never paid much attention to germ rate but it wasn't bad I don't think. But in those three years I managed to get a total of three seed berries and two of them were on plants from a commercial potato not the ones I started from seed. And all the ones I started from seed over the whole three years together would barely fill a tea cup with harvested potatoes. Noting at all to eat came from the seeds cause I had to try (and I failed) to keep the little tiny potatoes alive to replant the next year. I hate that cause I love potatoes but way too uncooperative to be a reliable food source here. I'll keep growing a few the way I always did by buying the tubers to plant each spring.

A sweet potato seed can make a food harvest and a couple hundred or more seeds it's first year. And if a person wants to they can easily keep a root from a favorite one to make slips the next spring or eat them all and just keep a stem growing as a house plant.

Germination has been improving each year and I think it will continue to but I'm really fine with as it is now. Out of 300 hundred seeds direct planted in the ground I had plenty sprout fast enough to fill my whole growing area.

By cloning the 20 best from this year, to cross with each other then next years seed crop will be improved even more.

Still there are other issues:
**They are genetically freaky enough that non-bloomers, non-seeders, and non-rooters will probably show up in some proportion even from the 2021 seeds. Always being necessary to grow extras to insure a good harvest isn't so bad. The rub here is you can't know until harvest what you will get from a new plant. I want to find a way to know that at seedling or young plant stage. 

Of course you can always eat the greens from a non-rooting plant but I don't really like the greens much. They don't taste bad but have a weird quality that's hard to describe, feels like having soap in your mouth although they don't taste like soap. They are OK mixed with other things in a salad or cooked in vegetable soup. I think if you dried them up and powdered them they might make a good thickener for gravy or stew.

**And then that sneaky little issue of compatibility. Say a gardener finds one they really like and decides to just clone it. Maybe it blooms a lot but will it make seeds? I don't know. Self compatibility is definitely in my seeds but I'm positive it isn't universal. AND I'm pretty sure some might be compatible with just some particular other one(s).  Or in one direction but not the other. How the heck am I ever gonna figure that out? It would take huge amounts of grow outs, isolation and recording. No way I'm gonna do that so for now I'm just going on the assumption that a good number of different plants have to be grown each year.

O' well no matter, the project is still going way better than I ever expected and it's lots of fun so first things first is to clone those twenty next year and make my new more elite line of seed. Already anxious for 2022 when I can pant them and see what comes out of it.


« Last Edit: 2020-10-28, 01:23:43 AM by reed »

S.Simonsen

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 95
  • Karma: 7
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #237 on: 2020-10-28, 01:21:14 AM »
Your work is an invaluable example about how difficult (and rewarding) it can be to get over the hump of poor sexual fertility and local adaptation of any particular crop, especially staple crops. The idea of someone who has previously grown a few seed potatoes from the shops in compost (also from the shop usually) to grow a small percent of their calories can just scale up and grow more potatoes if they ever needed to live off them collides with the reality of trying to close the loop in food growing systems and reduce reliance on ongoing inputs. The issue of reliability is huge as well- a crop that gives huge yields nine years in a row then fails completely in the tenth year is going to be a timebomb if you are relying on it to survive. I climbed over that fertility barrier with Canna but it took a few years of dead ends and trial and error, but on the other side I have a huge diverse population that is much easier to work with. Potato is likely to be marginal in my climate as well, though I will keep playing with seed grown diploids. Anything with long lasting seeds is extra valuable in my book because you can save large amounts to use later, both for breeding work or to rapidly scale up production (essential to recover from major disasters). Most pre-industrial cultures seem to have had at least two major staple crops with complementary failure conditions (eg one fails in the wet, one fails in the dry) and a longer list of minor staples. I am still fishing around for my second major staple crop here.

Chris Morrison

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 96
  • Karma: 3
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #238 on: 2020-10-28, 04:25:54 AM »
The point for me is really, scarification is easy, so why ignore  that?
Simple to learn how, and see what nature provides,
My guess is the 'hard nuts' (like everything in life), are the HARD NUTS!
We will see, never been a fan of Easy Street, sorry.

reed

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 676
  • Karma: 41
  • Narrow Ridge above the Ohio River zone 6a
    • View Profile
Re: Breeding Sweet Potatoes (turning them into a seed grown annual)
« Reply #239 on: 2020-10-28, 06:04:22 AM »
The point for me is really, scarification is easy, so why ignore  that?
Simple to learn how, and see what nature provides,
My guess is the 'hard nuts' (like everything in life), are the HARD NUTS!
We will see, never been a fan of Easy Street, sorry.

Well, I have to admit your wearing me down some.

Still I need a reason to think the harder ones some how have better genes. Do you think they might produce better? Be more cold or disease tolerant?

Another experiment that might be fun I reckon. Except a problem is ya can't tell by looking which would sprout easy and which one wouldn't so you would be scarifying them all and if the easy ones are some how inferior (which I don't buy) they would still be contributing pollen to the next generation.

My only guess so far and on very scant evidence is that the slightly larger, sometimes lighter colored seeds are the ones that sprout easier. They also tend to come from the plants that make comparatively fewer but still plenty of seeds. Those plants also tend more often to have nicer roots although also larger vines, which I don't like. Again very scant evidence, just some non scientific observation but maybe easy enough to test. Just sort some seeds and plant the larger, lighter in one pot and smaller, darker in another. 
« Last Edit: 2020-10-28, 07:07:15 AM by reed »