Idaho’s Seed Potato Germplasm Program Enters Hydroponic Production Phase
The University of Idaho’s Seed Potato Germplasm Program has shifted hydroponic production, which aims to increase control over growing conditions and boost yield, Capital Press writes.
The initiative establishes, maintains and distributes disease-free germplasm and mini-tubers for domestic and international seed-potato growers and researchers. One of the scientists involved with the program, Jenny Durrin said hydroponic methods take an average of 30% less time to produce the seed-potato starting material and yield about 70% more.
Plants are placed into sterile perlite as a growing medium and get all nutrients from liquid. Productivity is higher and disease risk much lower compared to an earlier system that used a peat-based, soil-less planting medium and time-release fertilizer. The nutrient solution can be customized, such as for a certain crop or variety, or to meet a specific need at different points in the growing season. With this method, researchers are able to decrease the amount of time for each crop and get higher yields.
Plantlets are multiplied in a laboratory – to be replaced and expanded this summer – and transplanted in the separate, recently remodeled greenhouse. The first crop to develop from start to finish in the new greenhouse was planted in April.
By manipulating the mix of plant nutrients in the hydroponic solution, the system encourages the plant to put on consistent green growth. Additional manipulations to the nutrient solution’s composition encourage plants to start producing tiny tubers. The system advances a production process for disease-free seed potatoes. The researchers use an ebb-and-flow system. In the main greenhouse, pump-equipped tanks of nutrient solution flood the plant-containing trays above.
The common nutrient-film technique produces mini-tubers that differ in physiological age but are consistent in size. The ebb-and-flow approach produces tubers that vary in size but are the same physiological age, making for consistent emergence and harvest time.