By starting potatoes from sprouts, you may facilitate the spread of late blight disease. Photo: ZooFari, Wikimedia Commons
I have a long history of starting new potato plants from potato tubers that start to sprout in my kitchen cupboard. After all, it certainly is easy enough to do: you just cut the tuber into sections, each one with at least one eye (sprout) and drop it into the ground when the soil starts to warm up in the spring. Dig, drop, done!
But I just read a warning that certainly made me stop and think.
Here’s what I saw on the web site of the Toronto Master Gardeners:
The Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture (OMFRA) has some cautions about growing potatoes in urban home gardens.
Their web site explains: “Late blight caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans is a devastating potato disease. Spores in the late blight fungus are spread by the wind and can travel long distances. Urban gardeners cannot access commercial crop protection materials that provide good control of this disease. Potatoes grown in urban areas are sources of late blight inoculum that can infect potato fields located as far as 200 km away.”
For this reason, they strongly recommend NOT using saved potatoes or purchased eating potatoes. Instead, OMAFRA recommends only planting certified disease-free potato seed from a reputable garden centre.
Well, that was a surprise! I had no idea of the consequences of a simple act of “plant recycling”! My nonchalant attitude towards potato starts may have been seriously harming potato farmers in my area … and there is a major potato-growing area well within the 200 km (125 miles) of my garden.
So … this year, I’ll be buying certified disease-free potato seed, which indeed, I can readily find in my local garden centre. And maybe you should do so as well!