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Sweet Potatoes - the ultimate survival crop

 
pollinator
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Location: SE Indiana
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More discussion form the other forum:

I definitely see a reason to scarify if you only have a few seeds but when I got my first twenty or so it was before I did all the reading and research about them and didn't know they needed it so I ended up with 3 plants out of those 20 seeds. I was lucky to find some varieties that bloomed a little for the second year and they and those 3 crossed up and got things started. Actually now that I'm thinking about it I might have just had 2 plants that year and the third was a clone of the one that made the original seeds. Anyway that year turned out to be great with a long dry fall and I collected seeds all the way into November.

Weather is a huge factor in getting good seeds. I think it was 2018 when August was weirdly cool and wet, half of the seeds molded and rotted in the capsules and I discarded what might have been good ones if a capsule mate had rotted because I didn't what that residue left behind. Another year it was hot and wet and a lot of seeds sprouted in the still green capsules.  Even in those bad years I got plenty of seeds but it taught me not to take it for granted. Another reason I think to always keep a nice backup stock of seeds.

I've never so far had a failure in root production but I haven't up till now really been trying to maximize that. I suspect when I move to that stage next year by preparing the soil better and more uniformly I'll see weather related differences. Mostly next year I hope to find yield root quality variation just between the different ones, probably won't really lean much about effects of weather on that for a long time.

I was planning not to sprout seeds next year, just to clone this year's best plants to make the new elite line of seeds but maybe I will do a small scarification experiment. I could sort out 20 bigger, lighter color seeds and 20 smaller darker ones and scarify 1/2 of each, just to see what happens. They would be wasted cause I wouldn't have space to grow them out to see if indeed the harder to spout ones were some how better or worse than the easier ones but I might learn if my theory about seed size and color is true.  But it might just or even more likely be that differences in seed size and color is just another genetic variation like root color or leaf shape.
 
Mark Reed
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From what I've seen if you grow sweet potatoes in water they don't make any storage roots at all, even if it's one that does make roots when grown in soil. They do bloom and make seeds though. I don't know if this might be a way to induce blooming or not but if you like the greens it is definitely a way to produce them in abundance and the fish in a small artificial pond really enjoy it too. Some kind of bugs hide, or may just tasty algae grows in those root mats and the little bluegills are always looking around in them. Or maybe they just like hiding in them too.

I saw in another post, can't find it right now where someone was talking about starting or keeping their slips in their aquarium. I have thought about that but never tried it, was afraid my aquarium doesn't get enough direct light. Also mine as a hood and would have to drill a hole to stick the stem through. I think I might give it a go. Would just take a small hole and I bet it would really benefit the fish, probably wouldn't even need charcoal with a mat of sweet potato roots in the water. I imagine if the did take off good would have to trim them back now and then.
AquaSP.jpg
Aquaponic Sweet Potato Vines
Aquaponic Sweet Potato Vines
 
Mark Reed
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Another re-post from the other forum where we talk about sweet potatoes

Quote from: --------- on Yesterday at 04:51:47 AM
"So, could hydroponically grown slips be a viable alternative to bulking up seed?"

It's easy to make slips from any growing vine. It could be in an actual hydroponic system or just a glass of water on a windowsill or growing in the ground or pot in a greenhouse. Any section of vine at least a couple inches long with a leaf joint will root and in a little wile be big enough to make still more slips from it. And by then you can get more from the older one.  It isn't a substitute for seeds though cause it still requires keeping either a plant or roots alive during the off season.

Quote from: ---------- on Yesterday at 04:51:47 AM
"If that's the case, maybe I could get some slips from you guys who have reliable seed setting varieties,  but not enough seed to share. Or I could attempt it on my own. Are the ornamental varieties better at seed set? Is there better seed set with different varieties vs selfed?"

I don't really make the distinction between ornamental and culinary anymore. All it means is if they make useable sized storage roots or not and that I think is just another variable trait in the species. I do think my initial luck in the project was because of the chance discovery of a self fertile "ornamental" and that trait got passed into my overall grex but most existing varieties are not self fertile. I don't really know the percentage of mine that are because I grow them all in a polyculture.

Quote from: --------- on Yesterday at 04:51:47 AM
"I only check this thread occasionally,  so I'm not sure what the state of this project is at this point in time. How are you all getting along with it?"

Currently the "turning sweet potatoes into a seed grown annual" project is largely complete. This year I planted seeds directly in the ground and had about 30% germination within a couple of weeks. That was enough and fast enough to more than fill my planting area. Many that didn't come up fast enough were just left crowded in the planting bed, some ended up blooming but most came up too late to make much roots. A smaller number planted at the same time in a cold frame had about 70% germination in time to plant out but I didn't have enough space and favored the direct planted ones.

There are still lots of questions I'd like to answer but not likely to be able to, especially concerning compatibility. Who is self fertile and why? Who is compatible with one or more particular other and not another and why? Who is compatible with one or more other but only in one direction?  Are there any that are compatible with most or all others? Are self fertile ones compatible with others as a rule or are most of their seeds selfed? And lots of others like how are traits passed on?

I doubt I will ever know those answers cause it is just way more than I could do to answer them and the university scientists don't seem to care or if they do they don't seem to write about it. They just do large scale polycross looking for the next one to patent as a clone. They don't care about garden scale growing from seed.

From what I read pretty much all traits are quantitive so I have just been applying what I call genetic distillation, trying to  cull out those that don't make nice roots, that have giant vines, don't bloom well or don't taste good. Stuff I can do just by looking and tasting, no need for microscopes, DNA tests and mountains of records.

This year I ended up with about 20 that meet most or all of my favored criteria. I archived most of my seeds in sealed test tubes, inside stainless steel canisters buried in the ground. Next year I'm planning on growing mostly just clones of those 20 with hope to make a new elite line of seeds.

State of the seeds right now is roughly. A single seed has about a 30% chance of sprouting within two weeks planted directly in the ground. That plant has probably a 95% chance that it will bloom and set seed, assuming it has an appropriate partner or is self fruitful. It has about a 70% chance that it will make nice roots and seeds within 100 days of sprouting. Probably 70% chance it will have bushy rather than large vine growth habit. I won't venture a guess on lots of other things like color, flavor and so on.

I am hopeful that the seeds produced next year will reveal all kinds of wonder things in 2022. Also I'm making more effort next year to give them better soil and take better care of them so as to learn their real potential as far as yield. If any of of those 20 show superior there I might also clone them again in 2022.

"What a long strange trip it's been"
 
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