Americans Should Be Careful of Ukraine True Potato Seeds (TPS)

Several varieties of uniform true potato seeds are available from eastern Europe and these are commonly offered through online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon.  The names of these varieties include Asol, Diva, Empress, Fermer (Farmer), Ilona, Krasa (Beauty), Milena, Revansh (Revenge), and variations and translations of these names.  These varieties are not legal to grow in the USA.  For that matter, it is not legal to import or grow TPS from other countries at all, but these are the most common varieties that people get into trouble with.

Examples of seed packets of Ukraine TPS varieties (Used without permission; I am claiming fair use for educational purposes.)

The USDA watches for purchases of these varieties and may show up at your door unannounced if you buy them.  I know this because it happened to me years ago.  They had a report provided to them by eBay that included my purchase.  They came to my house, months after the seeds arrived, demanded the seeds and plants grown from them, and proceeded to dig the plants and surrounding soil, bag it, and take it away for disposal.

The ostensible reason for this is disease.  A disease known as Potato Spindle Tuber Viroid is somewhat common in eastern Europe and Russia and it is able to spread through the true seeds of potatoes.  The USA has gone to great efforts to wipe out this disease and it is one of the major reasons that people are not allowed to import TPS.

Hopefully, you are reading this before you made a purchase.  If you have purchased these seeds and haven’t grown them yet, it would be best if you don’t.  I would seal them in a plastic bag and hold on to them for a couple years, so that you have something to hand over to the ag inspectors if they show up.  If you have grown them, I recommend destroying the plants and not growing potatoes in the same area where you grew them for a few years.  The diseases of concern are viruses and viroids which won’t persist in the soil, so the primary concern would be that they could transmit to other potatoes or related species while the plants are growing.  If you are very trusting of government, you could call the USDA and ask for advice.

I’ve been warning people about these ever since I got burned by them, almost a decade ago now, but I see more people buying them every year, so hopefully this blog post will get some traction in the search engines and stop at least a few people before they get into trouble.  There is a lot of homegrown TPS available in the USA these days, including uniform types like Zolushka and Clancy, so you can probably find what you are looking for without subjecting yourself to the risk of foreign TPS.  For what it’s worth, the risk of disease in TPS is pretty small; I am more concerned with protecting you from unwanted visits from regulators.

9 thoughts on “Americans Should Be Careful of Ukraine True Potato Seeds (TPS)

  1. R. says:

    So, they’ll let the products stay up on the online store, they’ll let you buy them, they’ll let them ship them to you, but THEN, way later on, they’ll come to your house unannounced, scare you a bit, and carelessly tear through all your property?
    …yeah, that sounds about par for the course, unfortunately.

      • bill says:

        To be fair, I think it is pretty hard to stop international sellers, but since it probably takes a couple weeks to receive the seeds and then at least six weeks to start them and transplant them out, they could just fire off a form letter to everyone who buys them instead of waiting months to show up in person. It seems like that would be both a lot cheaper and more effective.

  2. Larry DePuy says:

    I’ve purchased a lot of seeds from rarepalmseeds.com and most of the time get what I order. I think they are out of Germany so I imagine they have strict requirements for shipping, But you raise a good point.
    I did not think seed carried viruses. Thank you for the education and thank you for the truly remarkable work you do

  3. Pam Griffin says:

    I am looking for a TPS source. Twice I bought several varieties from you and not one seed ever germinated. The sea kale seeds never germinated either. I am trying to find the other vendor I bought TPS and sea kale seeds from to buy them again. Do you know who sells good seeds, because you don’t?

    • bill says:

      Hi Pam. You can check out the Kenosha Potato Project on Facebook to find other hobbyists who grow TPS. Maybe you can trade for seeds that will perform better for you. It would be useful to know which varieties you had trouble germinating. I do look for patterns in failures when people report them. People rarely report total failures starting TPS though.

    • Johann says:

      Hi Pam,
      I grow a lot of perennial plants from seed every year. I find that it is not realistic to expect high germination rates on species which do not heavily rely on reproduction by seed in the way that annual garden crops do. I buy seeds from many sources and despite my experience I still end up with some seeds each year which simply fail to germinate, have very low germination or take an extra year to germinate. This is after I have already inspected and confirmed that the seed quality was good with seed being well filled out and healthy, not underdeveloped, hollow, damaged, etc.

      It is reasonable to assume the seed was poor quality if it’s an cultivated annual plant that fails to germinate, but when working with perennial crops experienced gardeners accept that they simply are not as reliable to germinate regardless of how good the quality actually is. I appreciate people like Bill who provide access to unique seeds for perennial plants even though they risk being heavily criticized by inexperienced gardeners who may fail to germinate said seeds.

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