For a number of years now Tahuri Whenua has been working with a potato seed producer in Canterbury to help maintain ‘clean’ taewa seed tubers which can be made available for our growers around the country.
This is a multi-stage (year) project. First the variety of taewa is submitted for tissue culturing to gain small plantlets which can be checked and verified as free of the common viruses which affect potato crops. Effectively this is a form of micro-propagation and may take 1, 2 or more years to achieve. Once this is achieved the resulting plantlets are grown-on to produce small tubers which are ‘bulked-up’ in yield and numbers through plant production in a glasshouse. From here the tubers are grown-on in a summer production season outdoors and the harvest crop is then available to be sold off as seed.
We maintain a sample of each variety in tissue culture as a form of insurance in case these varieties are compromised in the future. Factors such as extreme weather events, crop losses, pest issues and so on can compromise the availability of these crops, especially as they are not commercially maintained each year. For this reason we also align to a seed saving opportunity with the projects at Massey University where we grow the crop each year purposefully to gain a fresh sample of seed for future years.
Currently the varieties being produced in this project are:
- tutaekuri (Syn. urenika)
- moemoe (2 lines)
2015 will be the last year of virus free seed production from our South Island grower. In future years we are hoping for local producers to have excess seed available for members. Keep in contact with the collective for any updates on seed availability for 2016.
The seed production system which contributes to the Virus-free taewa seed project: