Friday, March 5, 2010

Potato Starts From the USDA

Last year I followed a link to a USDA web site. They requested your name, address, e-mail, ect. and in return you could request seeds, bulbs or starts.
Then they requested that you collect growth information about the items that they sent you and report back to them at the end of the growing season.
They didn't have to send me the seeds!
But they did
And they sent little letters with the "germplasms".
"It is the policy of the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) to provide available materials in small quantities for research and education purposes, not for home gardening use. Please understand that this is a one time distribution because it is not our function to provide seed for home use gardening uses. We encourage you to save seeds for your own use. Standard easy to grow types are available from commercial sources. Within one year we will send you our standard forms asking for information about the performance of material you have received. The information you provide will help us better serve our mission."
"It is the policy of the NPGS to provide available materials in small quantities for research, education and genetic improvement purposes, not for home gardening or personal hobby type use. The material in the US NPGS is maintained to support research. While "research" can sometimes be defined loosely, our policy is not to distribute seed to homeowners "for their veggie gardens". The reason being that government agencies are not allowed to maintain programs that would be considered competing with private industry."
So.....they don't want to send their stuff to homeowners?
Only renters? How unfair!
Naw, I'm just being sarcastic.
I do have a hard time imagining someone (who? a scientist?) carefully tracking the growth of 10 seeds or 2 potato starts and then reporting to the government.
Of course, maybe if they have a grant......but hey! I'm saving the government money! They don't have to pay me to test and report - I'm doing it for free.
Really, if they didn't want to they didn't have to send the seeds to me.
Another thing - they sent the potatoes to me at the end of August. I live in Minnesota, so the potatoes had to live in my fridge for 6 months. Finally, on March 1st I took them out, because they weren't getting any better looking.
I would hate to kill them and have the USDA track me down!

I cut each potato into pieces. Some were bigger, so I cut them into 3 pieces with 2 eyes on each piece. Then I let them 'cure' overnight, exposed to the air.

I carefully marked each planting square with a number, letter and sign.
Then I wrote down the information in my planting book.

Planting the starts.

Four days later - we have green shoots!

I usually plant my potato starts outside, but these little babies couldn't wait another 2 months.
It will be interesting to see how this experiment works out.
Varieties started: Fortuna - Granola - Gladstone - Ottar - Bernadette - Iris


  1. Thats really cool! How do you sign up for this? Do you have the link?

  2. Mike - I think they shut down the site, because, as you can see from the letters they sent me, they weren't to happy about all the people requesting seeds.

  3. I did find a place to get them It is called the NPGS. I just got some yams from Peru and Ecuador today in the mail from WSU. It still comes with the USDA paperwork. I posted a link on a blog I did a few days ago. I included the direct link to the request source there. Thanks!