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Breeding Localized Varieties of Sweet Potatoes  RSS feed

 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2432
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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My mother loves sweet potatoes. She plants some every year, and harvests a meager crop. The available varieties are not suited to this area, so they grow poorly here. The way to fix that seems to be to breed my own varieties that can grow decently here in spite of the short-season, and cold-nights. That requires growing sweet potatoes from pollinated seeds.

Sweet potatoes are generally self-incompatible, so at least two unrelated clones are required to make seeds. Additionally, commercially available varieties were selected for poor seeding ability in order to minimize weediness. Last winter when a couple of people sent me sweet potato seeds, I was hyper excited. I shared the heck out of the seeds, trying to get them into the hands of collaborators that might have a better chance of getting a second generation of seeds.

I planted about 20 to 30 seeds 13 days ago, and three of them have already germinated for me, and about that many for the collaborator who sent that variety to me. It is also a variety that seems to not have the self-incompatible trait. Woo Hoo. We're off to a good start. Additionally, we are both growing a few different clones of sweet potatoes hoping to get seeds from some of them. I'm intending to plant some of my sweet potatoes in the greenhouse, so that they can get a bit of extra heat during the summer, and have a bit longer growing season in the fall.

Is anyone else in the forum working on breeding sweet potatoes? Want to share your experiences?

Here's what my seedlings looked like this morning.

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9713
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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For the first time this year I'm growing three different varieties of sweet potatoes, which I hope might flower and set seed. So, not much to report yet except I'm trying!
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Sweet potatoes are being grown in Southern Ontario and in Nova Scotia. These Northern varieties may prove suitable for Americans in colder areas as well.


http://www.aginnovationontario.ca/en/developing-made-in-ontario-sweet-potatoes/

Hot, sandy soil on the North shore of Lake Erie, that was formerly tobacco land, is the best place in Canada to grow sweet potatoes.
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Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2432
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I continue to work on this project... Our collaboration network continues to grow.

Three sweet potato seedlings survived the winter (indoors). Eleven seeds have germinated this spring. I haven't been able to grow any seeds yet myself. A close collaborator grows seeds and shares them with me. (Thanks Mark Reed.) We are working first on developing varieties that make seeds readily, and that germinate quickly without special treatment. After that is taken care of, we will select for other traits like large early tuberization, and localization to my garden, or the other gardens where they are being grown.

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Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato breeding
 
Libbie Hawker
Posts: 102
Location: Friday Harbor, WA
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Oh, this is exciting! Sweet potatoes are my FAVORITE. I have ordered a couple of bare-root plants from Baker Creek for this season--one red/orange, and one purple. I'm very interested to see whether they will cross-breed. I would also love to develop a variety that will grow well in my area. I'd eat nothing but sweet potatoes and ice cream if I could get away with it!
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1365
Location: northern California
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Sweet potatoes will often hardly bloom at all in a temperate climate.  I've seen mine start to bloom a little in the fall, just before harvest time.  I think it may be the daylength....that they need a short day and long night to bloom.  So you may need to have the plants in a warm indoor place (and they like it very warm....plants quit growing below 65 or 70 and start to die in the 50's) in order to get them to bloom and ripen seed.  In addition, you may need to hand pollinate them, especially if you're attempting to cross two varieties.  This could be a very detailed project, involving removing the male part of one variety's flowers and then moving pollen over from the other variety....
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2432
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Rather than doing this project scientifically, we are doing it holistically. Growing the plants, and allowing their inherent diversity to solve those problems for us. We are not keeping pedigrees. We are not hand pollinating. We are not manipulating day-length or temperature. We are allowing bees to do the pollination. We are selecting for varieties that readily make an abundance of seeds. We are not giving the seeds special germination treatments. We might only get 10% germination, but we are working on the expectation that the children of quickly germinating seeds will also germinate quickly. In other words, our first goals with this project are turning sweet potatoes into a crop that produces an abundance of seeds that germinate quickly and easily, just like any other northern adapted crop.

We have identified some families that flower months earlier than others. We have identified some families that produce an abundance of seeds. We have identified some families in which the self-incompatibility mechanism seems to be inactive.  Once we get the seed production issue resolved, then we'll start selecting for taste, productivity, size, cold-tolerance, etc...
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