Renowned potato & vegetable breeder coming to Ireland October 17th-18th 2009 | Organic Trust Ltd

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Renowned potato & vegetable breeder coming to Ireland October 17th-18th 2009

News | 05 Oct 2009

Tom Wagner is coming to Brown Envelope Seeds, Church Cross, Skibbereen, Co Cork to give a workshop on potato and tomato breeding on Saturday and Sunday 17th-18th of October 2009.


Tom has been breeding vegetables for many years and has developed some well known varieties of tomato, such as Green Zebra, Brown Berry and Banana Legs. He has a large potato breeding program and has had success in breeding blight resistance into old varieties. The Irish Lumper was the most widely grown potato in Ireland before the famine. Its decimation by blight, caused the famine. This year’s difficulties with new strains of blight in Ireland highlight the importance of breeding for resistance.

The workshop starts at 11am, and costs €80. The workshop fees all go to Tom for his traveling expenses.

To secure your places please send a cheque or postal order, to Brown Envelope Seeds, (Ardagh Church Cross, Skibbereen, Co. Cork), or transfer funds to AIB Skibbereen account no. 27102260 sort code 93 63 75.

Here are few words from Tom on his Tater Mater project in Washington.

“In my attempt to create new types of potatoes, I stumble upon crosses that I make that stir my imagination in many ways. When I dug my variety that I call NAVAMEY, I was impressed with the vine and the natural production of many potato berries that are likely selfed with an occasional out cross. The potato vine is a breeder’s dream, a round russet with yellow flesh with just the right size plant, maturity, and yield.

Looking at the cross extracted today between NAVAMEY and LUMPER, I was struck by the memory of the pedigree background coming full circle; namely the Irish connection. Since the weather here in the PNW is much like where my grandfather Joe Kaighin lived until he was 21 near the Irish Sea on the Isle of Man, I was hoping to get some more germplasm that would complement my endeavor of keeping his potato growing spirit alive.

The LUMPER did very well this year in one or more patches; good yields and good flavors. Since I am the only one doing breeding work with this two hundred year old potato variety, the progeny of my breeding work may some day be released to the public.

The LUMPER is uniquely suited to organic production and does well in a broad range of soil types. Breeding away from its Irish Famine history of Late Blight susceptibility, I hope I can re-acquaint people with better selections of this heritage potato! “

Some of the topics covered will be:

*  The history of Tater Mater Seeds

*  The development of some of Tom’s classic tomatoes such as the Green Zebra, along with dozens of other varieties that are available in the open market.

*  How Tom is rapidly accumulating a large germplasm of potato clones and TPS (True Potato Seed)

*  Hands on demonstrations of how to cross tomato and potatoes many times with actual plants and with video and powerpoint presentations.

*  Tom will talk about how he has taken just a few varieties of potatoes and tomatoes and created a vast diversity of seeds for the future.  By using heritage potatoes and tomatoes, and adding some newer releases to cross with, Tom is working with these to create tomorrow’s heirlooms.

*  Tom will discuss making F-1 hybrids that anyone can make over and over again.  He will talk about making backcrosses and taking each year’s seed increase to the filial level of F-5 on tomatoes which indicates a rather stable line.  Tom will illustrate how his potato lines have better berry production which aids hybridization efforts.

*  Tom will talk about the nutriceuticals of tomatoes and potatoes; the essential nutrients that these crop could contain with a bit of breeding expertise.  Enhanced antioxidants, anthocyanins, carotenoids, lycopene, are but a few.  Fast cooking times in his new potatoes clones that cook in 5 minutes in boiling water will be featured in his topics. Through a variety of breeder/grower initiatives beginning with the workshops, there will likely be many cooperatives dealing with plant breeding and variety development starting with seeds of Tater Mater.

These workshops will be part of an effort to keep seeds free and available to the public and not be allowed to be controlled by major seed companies, universities, or governments.

A concerted endeavor will be launched to work with local heritage varieties to incorporate them in variety improvement and to avoid GMO’s at all levels.

Potatoes can be grown from true seed and avoid the virus contamination of tuber trades.  TPS is but one way to foster diversity and reach local needs for flavor, storability, yields, disease resistance, all with organic growing methods

The workshops will features many ways to look at seed extraction,  seed saving, clonal selection. Single seed descent and bulk population breeding and variety maintenance will be discussed.  The workshops will try to feature local gardens and local growers.  The goal is to find ways for this to help Tom in his work and how he can help local growers in return.

Video and audio recording will likely be part of many of these workshops.  Some of those may be shown at succeeding workshops to show the growth of the information exchanges.  A few clips of how to cross potatoes and tomatoes may be linked to the Tater Mater blog.  Many still photos will be shown of his tomato and potato varieties.

Each of these workshops will invite anyone to submit questions to answer during the workshops and/or later in an interactive format.  With sufficient interpreters present, these answers will be delivered in the original language.

Workshop fees will go towards Tom’s travel in Europe and to free up important new seeds to be introduced.  As Tom devotes more and more of his time to being a seed ambassador of sorts, these fees will help continue his workshops towards the future.

The goal of Tater Mater Seeds is to get young people involved in plant breeding, therefore, if Tom can be a mentor and teacher for many potential plant breeders, justice is done.

During Tom’s 56 years of breeding plants, he has not only proven that anyone can be a home garden plant breeder but will show many how they, too, can be plant breeders.  His unique collection of proprietary seeds of tomato and potatoes will be a great resource for plant breeding groups in each nation.

Tom started out breeding plants on his family farm near Lancaster, Kansas.  He kept a family heirloom bean alive and growing each year in his gardens from a few beans his great grandmother brought to the USA in 1888.  He kept growing new selections out of his breeding work even while he obtained degrees in Anthropology, Botany, Geography, and Education.  His career includes farming, managing garden centers, managing greenhouses, potato buyer, potato and tomato breeder under contract, teaching, seed catalog, and a wide host of other professions. He has offered many of his creations in Farmers’ Markets and has introduced his varieties to other organic growers.

Tom stays busy with his TaterMaterSeeds forum and is a moderator on the for CrossTalk and Potato sub forums.

Tom currently lives in Everett, WA.  His plots are all organic and shuns any chemicals applied to the soil.

Tom Wagner
8407 18th Ave. West
Everett, Washington
425 512-0313
Cell 425 894 1123