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Removing Sprouts from Seed Potatoes

The practice of removing all but two or three sprouts from a seed potato to produce larger tubers is well documented in older gardening books. The question is, does it work? It’s certainly accepted as fact by many older growers.


A reader emailed me:

I was talking to someone who works as a farm advisor (crops). We were talking about growing potatoes and he was saying that to get a maximum yield, i.e. number of tubers, it is best to take off the main sprout or even all the sprouts. What happens is the tuber goes into the panic mode and produces more sprouts than it would have normally and hence more spuds.

On the flip side it is also true that if you want to have mainly big potatoes remove all the sprouts but 2 or 3. Do you have any thoughts on this?

The practice of removing all but two or three sprouts from a seed potato to produce larger tubers is well documented in older gardening books. The question is, does it work? It’s certainly accepted as fact by many older growers.

The logic of less sprouts producing less, and therefore larger, tubers makes some sense but the main factors that effect tuber size are available nutrients and water. And the variety, of course. Frankly, I don’t know for sure. I suspect rubbing out most of the sprouts will make little to no difference to tuber size and will reduce overall yield. Certainly commercial potato growers don’t have the time to go through their seed potatoes removing sprouts.

Cutting Seed Potatoes

Thinking on it, if reducing sprout numbers worked then it would be better to cut up the seed potato so that each portion only had one sprout. Anyway, an interesting experiment to find out if anyone is so minded.

On this idea of removing all the sprouts to induce panic growth in the tubers. I’ve come across ‘panic growth’ in relation to trees after pollarding or coppicing but not potatoes. My feeling was that this was nonsense, but you never know. So I decided to ask some experts.

Expert Opinion

First I rang Medwyn Williams and had a chat with his son who works with him. Like his father, he also really knows his stuff. He’d never heard of this ‘panic growth’ and felt the idea made no sense. If you remove all the growing sprouts, there’s nothing left to develop and the seed tuber is just ruined.

I also spoke with Dr David Shaw of Sarpo Potatoes a well respected potato expert. He couldn’t see it working either.

So I reckon this panic growth idea isn’t a starter.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
7 comments on “Removing Sprouts from Seed Potatoes
  1. Iain Macleod says:

    Having cut seed potatoes that have been rather large and have an abundance of eyes (as we in the highlands call them) I have observed that indeed those with only one or two eyes produce fewer but larger tubers, this of course was in good fertile ground. I have also noted that planting two very small tubers beside each other in good fertile ground produces a high number of reasonable sized tubers.

  2. Carolyn says:

    My father-in-law always cut big tubers in half to get a higher yield. His garden was fertile, well drained chalky ground and it seemed to work for him. I have fertile soil but it is acidic and fairly sticky after heavy rain, so I have always been worried that the cut edges would attract bugs and diseases – but that could be nonsense. Will be interested to see if anyone else tries this and how they get on

  3. Mary Graham says:

    I’ve tried all methods and each year gives varying results so not worth the trouble at all. Now I just put them in as they come. Exception is I remove overgrown shoots usually on my own saved earlies as they are weak and would break or rot when planted. Relax
    and enjoy the pleasure of harvesting your own potatoes as I do.

  4. Les says:

    For years I’ve reduced mine to 3 sprouts & spray the tubers once a week with a weak liquid seaweed which gives healthy dark shoots ready for planting out as normal when the weather is right..

  5. Mary Graham says:

    Seaweed solution is excellent and as a soil fertiliser. Home made comfrey feed costs nothing but a little time and has the same properties as seaweed fertiliser. I also put roughly chopped comfrey leaves in potato trenches when planting main crops.

  6. Geoff Richardson says:

    I received this note from DT Brown with delivery of my seed potatoes…
    “Please note a few of our varieties of seed potatoes are already starting to chit (shoot). Please rest assured this is totally fine, whilst it is unusual for this to happen this early in the season. We have noted quite a bit of this is happening this season, the issue has been the warm temperatures at harvest time and then the mild autumn that followed. Several varieties are also notorious for early sprouting, so despite our best efforts and that of our growers, they are off to a very quick start. These shoots are easily knocked off when handled and packed. The tubers will benefit when that early shoot is knocked off, so please do so once your receive them as it encourages all the eyes to open, many strong chits to form and makes for a better crop when planted”
    What are your thoughts?

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