Increase yield with better seed potatoes

Crop production

Notes to broadcasters

Content: Get the highest yield by planting the very best seed potatoes; well matured potatoes with thick skins which are not damaged by insects or disease. A few simple steps can ensure high-quality seed potatoes.

Length: 1,008 words; 6 minutes, 45 seconds (approx.)


1.More information on this subject is in the following DCFRN item:

Storing seed potatoes – Package 7, Item 1/B

2.Reference is made in this item to growing potatoes from the seeds found in the small round green fruit produced by the potato plant. This is fully explained in:

Saving food by growing potatoes from seeds
Package 6, Item 3

Copies of the above items may be obtained by return mail from DCFRN, 595 Bay Street, 9th Floor, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2C3, CANADA.


Let us think for a few minutes about potatoes and how you might get a higher yield from your potato plants.

Two types of seed
As you may know, there are two kinds of seed that will produce a crop of potatoes. One kind is the potato tuber itself or even a piece of the tuber that has tiny indented buds or “eyes” on it. Then too there are small potato seeds that you can find inside the little round green fruit that grows on the potato plant. Some people grow their potatoes from these seeds. The most common way of growing potatoes however, is the first that I mentioned, planting the potato tuber or part of the tuber.

The best potato tubers to plant
Mr. W.D.M.G.Dayawansa is a potato specialist in Sri Lanka. He says that the most important thing about growing potatoes from tubers is to plant only the highest quality seed potatoes. That means that they must not be damaged by insects or disease and they must have thick skins. They must also have been mature when harvested. Tubers with thick skins are less likely to be damaged during the harvest. As a result, they are are less likely to become infected with potato diseases that can get into the tuber through breaks or cuts in the skin.

Mr. Dayawansa has some advice to ensure that your seed potatoes are mature and have thick skins. He says you should leave the potatoes growing until about two weeks before you would normally harvest them. At this time, the leaves and stems are still green, although they will soon begin to turn yellow and die. So, while they are still green and growing, pick out a number of the very best and healthiest potato plants, cut or pull the stems up out of the ground, leaving the potatoes in the ground. Over the next two weeks, down there in the ground, those potatoes will mature more quickly than they would normally, and the skins will get much thicker, and be better for later planting as seed potatoes.

By the way, it may be a good idea to put a stake in the ground where each plant was, so you will know exactly where to dig for the potatoes when the time comes. And, of course, when you are digging them up, be careful not to break the skin or injure them in any way.

After you have harvested your potato crop, decide how many potato tubers you will need to plant for next season’s crop. Mr. Dayawansa says that this is the time to pick out the tubers that will make the best seed potatoes.

And what kind should you choose?

Choose well-matured tubers, slightly bigger than a hen’s egg, with a thick hard skin. That is, a skin that does not break easily and does not let in disease. These high quality potatoes must be free of insects and any sign of disease.

Storing seed potatoes
After picking out the tubers you are going to use for seed next season, separate them from those you will use for food. Store the food potatoes in a dark place. The seed potatoes should be stored in a different way.

Dr. Robert E. Rhoades worked for many years at the International Potato Center in Peru and is an expert on seed potato storage. His advice is to store the tubers you will use for seed “where there is some light but not direct sunlight”. He says that some farmers build simple seed potato storage sheds. Many of them have only a thatched roof on top of four posts in the ground. There are several shelves shaded by the roof. They are attached to the posts. The farmers store their seed potatoes on the shelves. The size of the shed or structure depends upon how many seed potatoes the farmer uses each season.

When potatoes are stored like this, the light makes their skins turn green. Dr. Rhoades says that this stops the tiny buds or eyes from sprouting, keeping all the food for the new plant right inside the tuber and keeping it from getting soft. “If you store them this way”, he says, “they’ll produce healthier stronger plants that are less likely to be attacked by pests and disease.”

Dr. Orville Page, the former Director of Research at the International Potato Center has a warning about potatoes that have turned green after being stored in the light: “They are excellent for planting but DO NOT EAT THEM. Whatever you do don’t eat or sell them for eating. Potato tubers that have turned green could be poisonous.”

And there you have a lot of good advice on potatoes from people on opposite sides of the world who have learned what they know by growing the crop. If you grow potatoes, why not try out these ideas? If you do, you will likely increase your production and have better potatoes for your family to eat, and perhaps to sell.

Once again, here are the main points.

If you grow potatoes by planting tubers, take special care to plant only the best possible tubers. About two weeks before you would normally harvest your potatoes, cut or pull up the green leaves and stems from a number of good healthy plants, leaving the potatoes in the ground. This will give them time to mature in the ground before you harvest them.

After harvesting, set aside the tubers you will use for seed. They should be a little bigger than eggs, with thick hard skins, no cuts or bruises, and free from insects and disease.

Store your seed potatoes in a place where it is light, but not where the sun shines directly on them. The light causes seed potatoes to turn green and prevents them from sprouting and turning soft.

These green potatoes must not be used for food because they are poisonous. When planted, however, they will produce strong healthy plants that will resist pests and diseases.



1.An interview recorded by DCFRN participant Sunil P. Hewavitharana, who was, at the time, Assistant Director of Agriculture in charge of the Sri Lanka Department of Agriculture’s Farm Broadcasting Service. He interviewed Mr. W.G.M.G.Dayawansa, a Potato Specialist with an In-Service Training Institute of the Department of Agriculture. Sunil Hewavitharana is now (in 1991) a graduate student in the College of Journalism at the University of Florida in the U.S.A.

2.Two interviews recorded by DCFRN’s Founding Director, Dr. George S. Atkins at the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru. He interviewed Dr. Robert E. Rhoades and Dr. Orville Page at the Center. (Further information could be obtained by writing to Mr. Ed Sulzberger, Director of Information, International Potato Center, Apartado 5969, Lima Peru.)

3.Low cost stores for seed potatoes (pamphlet), published by the International Potato Center, Apartado 5969, Lima Peru.

4.”Potatoes” (1983, 14 pages), Farming Notes #27, Publications Section, Department of Primary Industry, P.O. Box 417, Konedobu, Papua New Guinea.

5.Getting high yields of the potato (18 page pamphlet), published and available from the Farm Information Unit, Directorate of Extension, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, New Delhi, India.