Blight Proof Potatoes:
The Sárpo, continued...

I attended an interesting talk given by G. Davies at Ryton in late January, 2005. He and E. Skinner had been involved in organising Sárpo trials undertaken by Henry Doubleday members, the experiment sponsored by (and suggested by) Thompson & Morgan.

The three varieties tried were: Sárpo Mira, Sárpo Axona and Sárpo Tominia. Members were supplied with five tubers of each type and were asked to grow them alongside a variety of their choice. They were asked to comment on yield (number of tubers and weight), taste, and to note their observations on growth. There were 170 returns.

Most planted in the first 2 weeks of May.

Most people established 5 plants of each variety.

Here is a list of their findings:


Not much difference between Mira, Axona, Tominia and the members' own choice. Growth was very slightly less than "members' own".

There was much less foliage blight. Sárpo had about 10% blight after 20 weeks, comparing with 44% for the members' own choice. Axona was better than Mira; Mira better than Tominia. There was some early blight on the Sárpo varieties but this is caused by a different organism, and this confused some of the growers; the true figure for Sarpo late blight, therefore, is probably lower than 10%.

The Sárpos gave more tubers than "own variety". There was little TUBER blight on any of the potatoes, including "member's own".


The average yields were:

Axona: 5.5 kg per 5 plants

Mira: 5.5 kg

Tominia 6.5 kg

Members' own: 4.1


No difference between Axona, Mira and Tominia with respect to disintegration. All are floury and have to be cooked in the correct way. All are whitish; Axona slightly whiter and a bit more floury.

"Own variety" scored best for taste (not surprising if it's the grower's favourite). Mira scored worst.

When asked if they would grow the Sárpo potatoes again, the response was:

Mira Axona Tominia
Yes54 52 62
No34 35 25
Perhaps6 7 7

The main reason for not wanting to grow them again, cited by about a quarter of the growers, was taste.

TOMINIA was the most impressive, which is a pity, because this is the one which the Ministry have decided won't make it onto the National Listing - it's too similar to MIRA. The Ministry couldn't find sufficient difference between the DNA fingerprints.


1. Several growers said that both Mira and Tominia have good flavour.

2. One grower said that the tubers of all three types are tough skinned. There was general agreement.

3. One person commented that it's difficult to know when to dig the tubers up. The foliage doesn't die off. Some members harvested in September; some left them in until November, when tubers could be 1lb each. There was a decrease in taste and an increase in slug damage with very late harvested tubers: again, not surprising.

4. One member reported that the tubers were better after storage for mashing, but no good after storage for chips.

5. Members reckoned that allowing the plants to grow for 4 months was about right. Late May sowing is fine.

6. Two members reported hollow heart in large tubers- perhaps because their harvesting was rather late.

7. One member commented that Axona had a grainy, unpleasant texture.

8. All agreed that late blight resistance was outstanding (I believe it's rated at "9" on the Alan Romans scale).

Alison and I have obtained some Sárpo Mira seed and will be writing about the plants later in the season.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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