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Riona's potato experiment 2024

 
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Nancy suggested that we do potato experiments this year, so here's mine.

So I got some ordinary, but organic, potatoes at the store, russets, I wanted something smaller but they didn't have those in organic.  I put two in the cupboard to sprout, and I'm going to sprout/chit two in the window.  I will cut the ones in the window into sections so each section has an eye, that way I can face all their eyes upward for the light.  The ones in the cupboard are staying whole and sprouting in darkness.  The window I use isn't in direct sunlight at this time of year, which they say is good for chitting.

My goal in this experiment is to test whether potatoes with white darkness sprouts, or potatoes with green sprouts from the daylight do better.  I will measure "better" by how fast they grow, how many spuds they make, etc.  I want to know which method for sprouting is best.  Keep in mind that I'm growing in big pots, so the potatoes won't get as big as their parents were.  But I'm not using size as a measure of success here.
 
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I think it's getting time for me to start my potatoes chitting too. I want to plant them earlier this year.
It sounds like you will be making two differences between your potatoes: whole potatoes in dark and cut potatoes in light. I'll review my potatoes and see if I have enough big ones to try and assess both ways sprouting in light and dark. I usually try and just select smallish potatoes that don't benefit from cutting.
 
Riona Abhainn
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Hi Nancy, I could just not cut the ones in the window, but rotate them so all the eyes get light, should I do that instead?  I just wonder if I don't cut them will some of them not have enough light and thus end up with white sprouts?  Two variables make an experiment more problematic, so I guess I'd better not cut.
 
Nancy Reading
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Riona Abhainn wrote:Hi Nancy, I could just not cut the ones in the window, but rotate them so all the eyes get light, should I do that instead?


That's probably what I would do, but it doesn't matter as long as you understand that cutting may also give you a different result. The other alternative is to cut the ones in the dark too, then both light and dark are cut, so are the same.
There's is always a difference between real life and science. There is not much point in having a 'perfect' experiment if it is impractical in real life - for example if you find half the potatoes rot after cutting, that may not be something that you would want to do again, or if you had nowhere frost free and light, but only a space under the bed. However, there are always far more things that we can't control (weather, local microbe populations, what the local wildlife do...) that it is good to control as much as we can, to see the biggest difference possible in what we are interested in finding out.
 
Riona Abhainn
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Okay, no cutting it is.  I'm just rotating the ones in the window each day so all the eyes get a bit of light.  I plan to plant them all in early March, at which point I'll cut them all at the same time.  I want to limit variables as much as possible, even though there's no way to make an utterly perfect experiment, I can at least do my best.
 
Riona Abhainn
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Update:  The potatoes have been chitting for a month now.  I have 2 chitting in the dark of the back of my cupboard, and I have two on my window sill chitting in the light.

The interesting thing is that one of each set is growing faster than the other.  So in the dark there's one that has long chits, simple and white.  And one in the light has big chits, green but more complex.  And in both situations the second potato isn't chitting nearly as quickly, both in the dark and the light the second potato in each circumstance has small chits that aren't growing nearly as quick.  Even though they were all from the same bag of organic potatoes.  I will cut them and plant them in early March, stay tuned for more  info before I put them under the soil.  And I'll keep updating as they grow and give final results in summer when I harvest them.
 
Nancy Reading
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Thanks for the update Riona, (and the reminder!) I know that people who sell seed potatoes in the UK have to spend quite a bit of effort in rogueing the fields to remove spontaneous mutations from the stock. It maybe that you have a minor variation in the potatoes. Probably not enough to see, but you may see a variation though to harvest on those plants.
By coincidence I brought my potatoes in to chit last night (they have been sitting in the light on a shelf in a shed), so I was going to split into three - fridge (dark and cool), windowsill (light and warmish) and in a box under the bed or sitting room chair (dark and warmish) depending on where I can fit them in! That's one of my jobs for later.
 
Riona Abhainn
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Potato chits, planted.  In the end (Thursday March 7th) when I planted them, both and the green chits and the white chits were comparable in length.  Most of the white chits were slightly less robust-looking than the green ones, but one in particular was just like the best green chit, only a different colour.  I took the best 2 white chits/eyes and the best 2 green chits/eyes and cut the pieces out of the potato and planted them in my deep pots.  Of course I'm using the rest of the potatoes that I didn't cut parts out of for dinner soon, probably Mon.  Anyways, they're planted and we'll see which ones grow best.

Hypothesis:  They'll end up being comparable, and the international debate will rage on, but I'll conclude that they're comparable haha.  

We'll see what happens.
 
Riona Abhainn
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So far, March 19th, none of them have poked above the soil yet, no leaves, probably soon, any day now.
 
Riona Abhainn
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It has taken this long for any of my plants to poke above the soil, really slow action this year even though our spring is going fine, good mix of rain and sun, etc.  But today is the first day they've decided to grace me with their presence haha.  And you know what?  Its one of the green sprouts and one of the white sprouts haha.  So they are still neck and neck here.  I predict there won't be a discernable difference between white sprout and green sprout, and in the end there will be an answer of "well they're both comparable.  We'll see as the season goes on, but I'm sticking with that hypothesis for now.
 
Riona Abhainn
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So I'm wrong so far, the white sprouts really took off and are doing great, and with the green sprouts, only one of them took correctly and grew, and its notably smaller than the ones which had white sprouts.  From now on I'm likely sprouting all of my potatoes in the dark, I didn't see that coming.
 
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Interesting. I am wondering if the white one is more closely mimicking the spuds buried in ground. There is a long section of stem in the dark where the stolons are coming out. Looking forward to seeing how the harvest will be.
 
Riona Abhainn
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May I suspect that's the thing.  With green ones I bet they have to take time to get unconfused as to why they aren't getting light anymore and adapt to the change, whereas the ones that grew white just keep plugging along.  Last year I did all my potatoes with green sprouts, and they did okay, but I suspect that my white sprout potatoes will give me more harvest.  Plus this year only one of the green sprout ones even grew.
 
Riona Abhainn
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Final results:  I harvested my potatoes yesterday.  The two plants that grew from the white chits produced some potatoes for me, and the one plant that grew which came from the green chits (1 of them never came above the soil ) only produced 1 potato, and it was nobbly.  

I've concluded that definitively the potatoes which one sprouts in darkness are better and from now on I will sprout all potatoes in darkness for better results.
 
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