The Sustainable Potatoes United Development Study
SPUDS is a community based action research project examining the sustainability of Ireland’s agricultural system through the eye of the potato. In 2012 Teagasc, Ireland’s National Agricultural Research Agency, obtained permission to trial potatoes genetically modified (GM) to resist blight. According to a recent Euro-barometer study only 27% of citizens in the EU are interested in GM food products and there is strong resistance to the introduction of GM in Ireland. To raise awareness around these issues and explore the alternatives SPUDS gave away 1.5 tons of non-gm naturally blight resistant potatoes to anyone who was interested in growing them and documenting their experience. 300+ growers – large and small – across the country took part in the research. Over the summer months these ‘citizen scientists’ recorded their progress growing and tending these potatoes and at harvest time they documented the yield, quality and taste of their crop. (find detailed information on where this research took us in 2012 in our SPUDS-NEWSLETTER-Autumn-2012)
The intention of our project is to revive Ireland’s national treasure – the potato – a highly sustainable source of nutrition – and demonstrate that naturally blight resistant potato varieties have the potential to reduce our use of fungicides and lower our carbon footprint, despite our blight friendly climate. Currently naturally blight resistant potatoes are not being grown in large quantities in Ireland as they are not deemed to be commercially viable. Through this project we aim to prove otherwise.
Preliminary findings from the project are extremely positive. The data collected from SPUDS ‘citizen scientists’ will be analyzed and the findings are due to be published in 2013. If you grow or are interested in growing naturally blight resistant potato varieties we would love to hear from you! To become a member of our national research community and share your experiences please use the contact form on this site to register your interest.