Farmers growing potatoes across much of North America would likely prefer to forget last summer and fall. Between brutally hot and dry growing conditions in the west, widespread harvest-time challenges, and P.E.I.’s potato wart-related export ban, 2021 was a rough year for many. Unfortunately, tubers still in storage won’t forget challenging growing conditions: stress and mechanical damage dramatically impact storability and ultimate marketable yield. From a seed potato perspective, the impacts are even longer-lasting. Tubers that went into storage stressed in the fall will break dormancy early, shrink more, and enter the growing season with less energy. This year, supporting seed potatoes’ vigour through storage will be extra critical, both to spring seedstock sales and to the 2022 crop’s success.
Many potato producers tell me they’ve been chasing sprouting earlier than ever this storage season and seeing radical temperature swings. While processing and table stock growers can choose from several sprout suppressing options, seed potato growers have exactly two options to manage sprouting. About 80 per cent rely on temperature control and chitting where necessary. In a year like this, however, that option will carry a steep cost in both time and salable weight.
A better option is 1,4SEED, a synthetic version of a naturally produced potato hormone called 1,4 dimethylnaphthalene (1,4 DMN) that supports the production of dormancy enhancing enzymes.
Admittedly, some producers are still nervous about trying 1,4SEED, wrongly assuming it must be a sprout inhibitor. 1,4SEED is NOT a sprout inhibitor, which is illegal to use in Canada on seed potatoes. Instead, it is a dormancy enhancer: a full reversible, naturally occurring biochemical that supports dormancy and decreases water loss. Because 1,4DMN volatilizes away as soon as temperatures rise, 1,4SEED allows exceptional storage flexibility.
1,4SEED’s most important benefit is that it enables tubers to store their energy rather than wasting it through early sprouting. Seed quality is always important but will be particularly critical in fields with low carry-over moisture and dry planting conditions this spring.
1,4SEED also offers an important side benefit: in almost all the varieties we tested, it breaks tubers’ apical dominance and produces a more uniform crop emergence. Managed well, tubers treated with 1,4SEED can produce better and more even tuber set with more stems per plant in most varieties.
There is an upside to the challenges that presented last year. Low supply means producers can expect high market demand for every seedstock tuber available. Contact us for more information about application options. After last year’s challenging growing season, you deserve every dollar your crop can capture.