Why would I buy seed from a named variety instead of a breeding mix?
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, I think that our prices are still a pretty good bargain. Just a few years ago, oca seed was unavailable at any price. So far, we have sold out of every line of seed each year, so we can’t be too far off the mark.
Individual variety 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. The price for seed of individual varieties ranges considerably, currently from $9 to $30 per 30 seeds. This reflects the difficulty in producing those seeds. For example, Amarillo requires hand pollination, has a huge failure rate, and yields about 3 seeds per pod, while Redshift produces abundant pods with only insect pollination and yields about 8 seeds per pod. The more work we have to put in, the more the seeds cost.
Why did I get poor germination?
That’s a good question and one that I don’t have a good answer for. People frequently report poor or no germination from oca seeds. We do germination tests on the batches that we sell and the tests always turn out pretty good. When we get lots of reports of poor germination, I retest the seeds that we are selling and have invariably gotten good germination. Perhaps there is something about our local conditions that I take for granted. One thing that I often think is neglected is ensuring that the surface of the growing medium is frequently sprayed with water when seeds are surface sown. If the soil dries out at the surface, which happens quickly under lights, the seeds will not germinate. Also, you should probably not put lights over the seeds until some have begun to germinate. You risk overheating them. Most of the time, when I have tried to troubleshoot this with customers, I haven’t come up with any evidence of incorrect technique. We’re still in the early years of oca breeding and there is a lot that we don’t know.