Potato pollen question

Hello! This is my first year growing Andean and diploid potatoes, and the different colors of the flowers are so pretty! First to flower so far are Gunter Red and Bloody Banana, and I think the blue one is Jancko Ajawiri.

potato flowers

I’m curious about pollination - I know diploids don’t self-pollinate, but I am wondering if I need to hand pollinate in order to get berries and seeds or if insects usually take care of it? I haven’t seen bees visiting the potato flowers yet, but I’ve got lots of bees in the flowering cover crops in neighboring beds.

I’m also wondering - what does potato pollen look like? I’ve never grown male fertile potatoes before, and my experience with hand pollinating vegetables mostly involves squash, which have very visible yellow dust on the anthers. I don’t see anything that looks like pollen on the anthers of the potato flowers. I’m in zone 8a North Carolina, and we’ve had several days with high temperatures in the high 70s/low 80s, so maybe it’s just too hot? Or is potato pollen just really hard to see?

1 Like

Insects will probably do enough pollinating for you to get seeds, but you will almost always get more if you hand pollinate as well. The right tool for the job is a cheap electric toothbrush. They vibrate at just the right cycle to free the pollen from the flower. If you don’t vibrate the flower, you usually won’t get any pollen from it. The pollen looks like a very fine white dust, but it is often produced in such a small amount that it is hard to see it. If you vibrate a flower onto something black, like a cell phone screen, you will usually be able to see some. It takes maybe 20-30 flowers’ worth before you really have enough to see easily with the naked eye with most varieties, although there are some really prolific types where you can see it streaming from the flower.

1 Like

I will try that! Thank you very much!