Breeding Potatoes

By Chris November 13, 2013


I might butcher this a little bit, but it’s something we learned from the Mid Isle farmers and I wanted to share it.  Potato farming is regulated heavily by the Prince Edward Island government. It’s their livelihood. The biggest reason is to prevent disease.

When a farm decides to plant a certain varietal of potato, they have to buy a pure seedling that is called the “nucleus.” They are super expensive. They plant the seedling which grows about 10 potatoes. These potatoes are labeled PE. The potatoes at this point are somewhere around $15 a pound. They replant each of those potatoes, which grows a new plant and makes about 10 new potatoes. This generation is called E1. They take the potatoes from E1, replant each one yielding 10 more potatoes for each potato planted from E1. This new generation is E2. The following generations are E3, E4 and so on.  Every time they replant a generation, they get 1o times the amount of potatoes the next generation.

With each generation, the potato gets cheaper and cheaper as it multiples. Farmers like to sell the potatoes at E3.  At E3, the potato has multiplied enough that the farmer can recover the initial investment from the nucleus and make a small profit. Each time they replant a potato and it becomes an older generation, it becomes cheaper, but it also becomes more susceptible to disease.  The government of P.E.I won’t let any farmers grow/sell past E4 because of its vulnerability to disease, which could wipe out acres of potato crop.  I think it’s pretty crazy that you have to breed out the seedling 5 generations before you can sell and make a profit from the potatoes. Potato farming is a tough business.  I have a new appreciation for them!


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