Thoughts on PNW potato culture

Hi all,

I wonder what everyone’s thoughts are about creating a subsistence potato culture in this climate. What would be some defining attributes? What fits our climate patterns? What would make a reliable staple?

Irrigated or dry farmed? Would low dormancy potatoes have a place as a reliable staple? Would there always be a spot for seedling (TPS) potatoes each year to keep genetics and disease resistance changing? Would you be able to eat potatoes year round?

Right now I have too many questions to make my own framework, but I hope some of you that live in this area can chime in with how you grow for your family or community.

I’ve only been growing potatoes for a few years but they’re clearly perennial and borderline invasive in our climate. I’m not really sure how to tell if any of the new plants in spring are from seeds. I suspect none have been at least so far in my garden. My worry in the next few years will be disease and insects adapting to the returning potatoes. I already have a lot of flea beetles munching through mine.

Something fun that I’ve been experimenting with is makahs/ozettes, which are a very old/primitive heirloom crop with some interesting history dating back to early Spanish contact with Indigenous peoples in the PNW. It seems they are all infected with a virus but also thrive despite so, and come back each year quite well with little to no pests (I’m in year 3 now, so we’ll see).

I’ve left blue potatoes from the store in my mounds and they seem to store well and also come back. They also grow insanely good in our climate. Actually, any potato I throw into the dirt here seems to produce quite well.

If you are interested in other tubers, yaucon and oca also do quite well here. I’m in Vancouver by the way.

Greetings. A year late to the party, but topic appears to be relatively fresh with a new post. Funny you should ask about subsistence potatoes. I’m working on just that.

What would be some defining attributes?

High productivity, high disease-resistance (“subsistence” implies you don’t have a lot of budget for chemical inputs), long-keeping, seed fertile.

What fits our climate patterns?

High resistance to fungal diseases.

Personally, I’ve grown indeterminate potatoes for so long I’m used to them, tho people in other parts of the country often express dismay when they run into one. Not sure how others feel about them, or how they might impact cultural practices. I’m not a farmer.

Irrigated or dry farmed?

Irrigation probably superfluous in maritime climate regions. Inland northwest is another matter.

Would low dormancy potatoes have a place as a reliable staple?

Perhaps, but only if you’re committed to raising them from seed. Otherwise, you’ll be vulnerable to losing the tubers as they accumulate disease and eventually rot in storage.

Would there always be a spot for seedling (TPS) potatoes each year to keep genetics and disease resistance changing?

Personally, I’m wary of crops that have been vegetatively propagated too long. Even if I didn’t run into problems that forced my hand, I would regularly, proactively renew from seed to avoid problems up-front.

1 Like

Most of the lowlands of Western Washington and Oregon are considered “Mediterranean” in the Köppen climate classification systems with a pronounced dry period during day-neutral potato tuber formation. I don’t know the productive potential of daylength-sensitive potatoes becaise I’ve never grown them.

Ive always grown potatoes with additional watering, but I’ve also always had volunteer spuds come up and thrive without irrigation in certain conditions- heavy soil cover, lots of organic matter, reasonably moist soil in general… would be interesting to experiment like they have been doing dry-farming tomatoes in the Willamette Valley.