Should I buy Group 1, Group 2, or Group 3 seed?
This depends on your goals. If you just want to try growing some oca from seed for the first time, Group 1 would probably be best, since it is the best deal at $0.13 per seed. You would probably never exhaust the potential of this seed mix, even if you grew tens of thousands of seeds, because the number of varieties from which the seed is harvested is large and so is the inherent genetic variability of oca.
On the other hand, if you are interested in breeding oca but lack the space to grow and harvest seed from an extensive collection of varieties, you might prefer Group 2, which would allow you to parallel our breeding program and begin working from a pool of varieties in which we have already done some selection.
Group 1 also stays relatively static from year to year (although, as stated above, it is unlikely that most people would ever feel like they have seen all that is has to offer) while Group 2 changes every year.
Group 3 contains seed from only those varieties that we have released or believe that we will soon release. This group is smaller, but contains only elite varieties. Because we have released these varieties under the terms of the Open Source Seed Initiative Pledge, any varieties that you grow from this seed and choose to share must also be provided under the same terms.
Why would I buy seed from a named variety instead of Group 1, 2, or 3?
People who buy single parent seed lines are probably looking for specific characteristics found in the parent variety. You might buy seed from a named variety if you are planning on doing breeding and want to begin with varieties that have certain characteristics. You might also buy this type of seed if you cannot import the variety as a tuber and want to try to select a new variety that is substantially similar to the parent. Seed banks and researchers also typically prefer seed from known varieties for their projects.
Why is oca seed so expensive?
Oca seed does not mature uniformly. We must harvest it daily from June through November. Seed pods cannot be left on the plant because they explosively expel the seeds when ripe. Seed pods must be finished in containers and then the seeds must be separated from the pods. All of these steps involve a considerable amount of work. At the peak of the season, we manage as many as 800 finishing containers. While oca seed is more expensive than many other kinds of seed, we think that our prices are still a pretty good bargain. Just a few years ago, oca seed was unavailable at any price. Single-parent seed lines particularly are a low volume specialized product that require a lot of attention during the growing season to produce in amounts sufficient for sale. So far, we have sold out of every line of seed each year, so we can’t be too far off the mark.