What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
Potato growers either suffer calamitous crop loss due to blight in wet seasons or they use weekly applications of fungicide to control blight. Organic growers use the heavy-metal toxin, copper, and conventional growers use a cocktail of synthetic fungicides and keep the foliage of the growing potato plant covered in this throughout the growing season. Copper is a persistent and wide-spectrum poison that should never be applied to soil in more than trace amounts. Weedkillers are routinely used. Pesticides are neither good for the health of the environment and its wildlife nor the health of the growers and their close neighbours. Each application of chemicals adds to the Carbon Footprint resulting from growing potatoes. Damage to the soil by compaction is a related problem. Cold stores that keep potatoes from sprouting use lots of electricity and anti-sprout chemicals.
In developing countries where fungicides are not used, Sarpos will, quite literally, be life-savers.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
Worldwide the cost of blight control has been estimated as more than $3 billion; lost production is estimated to be 15% of the crop. Even in the UK, chemicals in sprays applied to potatoes to control blight cost an estimated £18 million per year, not including costs of applying the stuff. Hidden costs like damage to the environment, to human health and soil compaction are unknown. In parts of Asia, yield could be increased 3-fold by growing virus and blight resistant potatoes.
What is your solution?
GROW SARPO POTATOES: Our naturally bred Sarpo varieties are vigorous, hardy and don’t need chemical crutches to prop them up against diseases and pests. They don’t need refrigerated storage or anti-sprout chemicals through the winter months. Growing Sarpos can cut the carbon footprint by about a half.
Our conventional (non-GM), breeding over many years, has built-in resistance from different wild potatoes, giving complex, lasting protection to even the most aggressive forms of blight. Potato growers, farmers and gardeners need these low-input spuds to produce large crops safely without resorting to weekly blight sprays and without using cold stores.
How will you deliver this?
Sarpo Potatoes Ltd is multiplying certified seed of six different Sarpo varieties with different maturities, tastes and uses in the kitchen. During the next few years, we will promote these “Potatoes for a Greener Planet” and sell them to farmers and gardeners in UK but also in Ireland, Europe and beyond. We already have interest from growers in Eastern Europe, D.R.Congo, Pakistan, Nepal and St. Helena and have supplied seed to some of these. Crowdfunding will allow Sarpo Potatoes Ltd to promote its potatoes to combat blight and improve the environmental impact of potato farming across the world. Just think: areas growing only our varieties could say goodbye to blight. Please help us achieve our aim.