Potato Propagation Made Simple
Watch the slideshow below to see how our Phytokit™ System makes tissue culture micro propagation a simple and inexpensive process. Our technology allows you to propagate plant seedlings in your home or business environment without incurring the laboratory fees customary with this process.
Taxonomy of the Potato
Potatoes belong to the Solonaceae Family, a family consisting of about 90 genera and 2,800 species.
Although the family is found throughout the world, it is especially concentrated in the tropical regions of Latin America.
The genus Solanum, to which potato and all wild relatives belong, consists of about 2,000 species.
Tissue Culture Technology
Throughout the world, thousands of laboratories apply plant tissue-culture technology to crops, ornamental plants and endangered plant species. In the late 1970's, the technology for large scale tissue culture was refined for potato production. Today, almost all seed potato production systems incorporate this technology in some way.
Phytocultures Ltd. has refined the technology to serve the needs of production oriented seed potato producers. Several factors, such as patented equipment, potato oriented chemical formulations and field proven techniques, have eliminated the need for detailed training sessions and capital intensive investments. These requirements ultimately translate into high volumes of quality seed potatoes at competitive prices.
The technology allows rapid propagation of plants by cloning, which uses less space and labour than traditional methods. The pathogen-free nature of the cultures promotes growth and increases the value of the final product. For the commercial grower, the technology means improvements in the quantity and quality of crops.
Introduction to Potato Propagation
The potato has been used as food for thousands of years. Today, the potato is the fourth largest food crop in the world. Potatoes are grown in almost every country in the world, with annual world wide production exceeding 300 million tonnes.
Potato plants, much like tomato plants, produce flowers, seeds and fruit. The seeds can be collected and replanted to produce new plants. This process is useful for potato breeders, but it is of little value to today's commercial potato grower, because the new plants may not even resemble the mother plant.
In general, potatoes are propagated by vegetative methods (cloning), most commonly by harvesting and replanting the tubers. When the potatoes are harvested, the tubers, or new potatoes, are generally found attached to the plant on underground stolons. The tubers are either saved for eating or replanted. The tubers used for planting are known as "seed potatoes", as opposed to "potato seeds".
Field Seed Potato Production
Field seed potato production is the basis of most world potato production. A century ago, potatoes were grown primarily as food. They were harvested in the fall and stored and consumed over the winter and spring. Farmers sorted the left-over tubers, discarding those that were damaged or rotten, and planted the good ones as seed for the next season's crop. This was the extent of the seed potato production effort.
As the years passed, people realized that some plants produced higher yields and larger tubers than other plants. Early seed potato growers began selecting better quality tubers for seed and discarding those of poor quality. Diseased and healthy plants were identified and separated, and the healthy tubers were used for the next season's production. Farmers recognized the advantages of higher quality seed potatoes.
Potatoes are susceptible to more diseases than almost any other major crop. If the mother potato plant becomes infected with a disease during the growing season, each of the new daughter tubers is likely to be infected as well. *This is called primary infection; secondary infection occurs when the diseased daughter tubers are planted and infect the new plant, which acts as an inoculum for other plants in the field. If left unchecked, a disease can eventually spread through the potato crop, reducing yields or even destroying an entire crop.
Growing Disease-free tubers
Because tubers are the starting point for successive generations of potatoes, it is vital to grow high-quality, disease-free tubers. However, this can be difficult in the field. During the growing season, growers check seed fields visually for signs of disease and remove infected plants; this process is called roguing. However, visual inspection, particularly for primary infection, is unreliable, time consuming, and requires a trained eye.
Plant tissue culture is one way of ensuring that potato plants are disease-free. This system also saves space and time. Tissue culture plants are grown under sterile conditions on an artificial plant growth medium.
With plants grown in sterile culture conditions, known as in vitro propagation, a grower can produce large quantities of seed potatoes in a limited space. Hundreds of micro plants can be grown in one square foot of space. Hundreds of varieties, clones and seedlings can be safely stored in several square feet of space. When transplanted to a field, each micro plant can produce more than a kilogram of potatoes.
Tissue culture permits very rapid propagation. Under the traditional system of propagation, one tuber yields approximately 8 daughter tubers in the course of a year. Plant tissue culture techniques can create 100,000 identical plantlets in eight months and if transferred to the field, they could yield 50 tonnes of potatoes. This is of great benefit to people testing potato varieties. New varieties can be obtained from international sources in plantlet form, packaged in a closed laboratory container free of soil contaminants, and multiplied rapidly by tissue culture for field trials. The varieties can then be evaluated quickly as to how well they perform under local conditions, including the presence of diseases and pests.
Potato tissue culture was initially confined to university and government based research laboratories. In recent years, however, many commercial enterprises have started to use tissue culture as a cost effective tool for seed potato variety trials and for seed and table potato production. In fact, under the guidance of Phytocultures Ltd., potato tissue culture has advanced to the point where many growers have their own on farm micro propagation laboratories, which are restocked periodically from Phytocultures Ltd.'s central laboratory.
Phytocultures Ltd. has developed and simplified the technology of in vitro plant propagation to make the procedure accessible to both commercial growers and home gardeners. The patented equipment supplied by Phytocultures Ltd. has been developed for ruggedness, adaptability and flexibility, and is backed by 20 years of direct application.
The basic in vitro technology is easily learned and adaptable so you can scale your operation to your anticipated needs. Phytocultures Ltd.'s 20 years of experience assures that appropriate methods are employed to maintain phytosanitary health and minimize overhead costs. Our knowledge and technical advice enables our client to successfully develop and produce plantlets in their own tissue culture operation.
A range of in vitro equipment is available and the extent of complexity of your purchases will depend on the specific objectives of your work. The techniques and equipment are easy to use and operators and staff can become proficient in a short period of time.
Tissue Culture Process
Here, in simple terms, is how the process works:
||Disease free plantlets are grown in test tubes on a nutrient
||After 18 - 60 days, depending on the rate of growth, each
plantlet is cut into 3 to 10 nodal sections and is placed in a new
test tube with fresh nutrient media
||The growth - cutting and replanting process is repeated until
a predetermined number of plantlets has been attained
||The plantlets are now removed from the test tubes, planted in sterile soil mixture and
placed in a greenhouse to complete a growth cycle of about 90 days
||The growth phase will end when the potato plants mature and
die. Tubers produced during the growth phase may be found in the
sterile potting soil.
||The tubers are harvested, stored and then sold to seed potato
By this process, a laboratory with a production capacity of 100,000
potato plantlets per year, along with an appropriate greenhouse, can
produce enough seed potatoes to plant 10 to 12 hectares the following
The production equipment and techniques of this process are not complex, although it is crucial to practice strict quality control. Experience has shown that the technology is adaptable to many situations, as long as people using the technology are trained in handling techniques, and local conditions, including environment and resources, are taken into account.
Potato plants grow in a wide variety of plant types - some are upright and
bushy, while some resemble long trail-like vines, but there are
similarities all plants have and these similarities are the ones
exploited in the process of plant propagation.
Each plant has a root system, a stem or multiple stems, leaves, and
terminal points or growth points. There is an apical meristem
(apical growth point) found at the apex of the potato stem and there
are lateral growth points (meristems) found in the junction points of
the leaf and stem.
Each of these buds has the capacity to become a meristem and grow into
another plant. However, the peak of the plant, the meristem, secretes
hormones to suppress the lateral buds. When the meristem is removed,
the lateral buds are free to develop. This mechanism enables the plant
to survive if the plant tip is broken off or eaten.
For many years, horticulturists have taken advantage of the response
of plants to injury. If you take a piece of a plant stem, you can
induce roots to form on the removed piece and the mother plant will
develop a new vegetative shoot.
Move this technology to the test tube where disease organisms have
been eliminated and optimum nutrients are supplied to the plant
tissue. Very rapid growth can be achieved with the sectioning
and growth of apical and axial buds.
In short order, one plant can become 10, then 100 and 1000 and
10,000 and so on.
Tuber to Tons Cycle Chart