Blight-proof potatoes? -the Sárpo

An interesting article appeared in "Organic Gardening" in the Feb 2005 issue. To paraphrase John Walker, who wrote it:

....The Hungarian Sárvari family have been breeding potatoes for about 50 years, concentrating on blight-resistant types. They have developed a strain of potato which appears to have blight resistance. They have named it "sárpo". (The name "sárpo" (pronounced "sharpo") is a hybrid of Sárvari and potato).

These potatoes are the result of decades of conventional plant breeding, using some wild plant material from South America as well as more conventional stock.

My own remarks:

1. The article shows a remarkable picture of healthy sárpo foliage next to a blight-ravaged plot of Santé in mid-September 2004. The blight resistance looks almost total.

2. Will blight evolve to overcome this resistance if sárpo is widely grown?

3. What about the taste? Are the sárpo potatoes inferior to our favourite varieties?

Paraphrasing John Walker again:

1. Sárpos have very dense haulms*.
2. They are high dry matter. Sárpo Mira and Sárpo Axona are red-skinned maincrops producing heavy yields.
3. Sárpos have achieved well in blind tastings.
4. They have good flavour and floury texture.
5. Growing blight-resistant potatoes will benefit tomato crops.

Alison and myself are hoping to grow some Sárpos this year. At the time of writing they are supplied only by Thompson and Morgan. (Incidentally you may have noticed T & M have used one of our photos of "Shetland Black" in their latest catalogue).

We will be putting further comments about these potatoes on-line, when we know a little more.

*not an advantage in varieties which get blight. Air circulation is restricted, the haulms collapse, and the whole lot begins to rot.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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