About the OSPGA Seed Potato Upgrade & Distribution Unit

A woman tending to a garden

Seed Potato Upgrade & Distribution Unit

Ontario Crop Research Centre- New Liskeard; University of Guelph

The SPUD Unit is managed by Candy Keith and Sandra Seed along with their support staff including Wanda Cook, Kelly Burrows and Samantha Schmidt. The OSPGA has a contract with the University of Guelph for the services provided by the SPUD Unit.

All orders for the services of the SPUD Unit related to potatoes passes through the OSPGA.


The Seed Potato Upgrade & Distribution (SPUD) Unit was initially established in New Liskeard, Ontario in 1983, to service the seed potato industry. The SPUD Unit began producing virus-indexed, micro-propagated nuclear seed potatoes in the laboratory environment for the Ontario Seed Potato Growers Association in 1984; the partnership has continued to date. Of Canada's more than 186 potato varieties, the SPUD Unit maintains 30 virus-indexed public cultivars for easy access by industry and plant breeders, as well as a number of significant proprietary cultivars.

Since 1988, the SPUD Unit's initial seed potato propagation mandate has expanded to include Ontario's strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, haskap, cucumber, tomato, sweet corn, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, garlic, sweet potato, hazelnut, and hemp industries.

The SPUD Unit regularly cooperates with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, as well as industry and research partners to extend the possible growing season of fruit and vegetable crops in Ontario. The agricultural research generating from these initiatives has been presented in academic literature pertaining to field production management, as well as multiple national and international conferences.

Lush Greenhouse
4 women standing outside of a greenhouse

Geographic Advantages of the SPUD Unit’s Location

The SPUD Unit research facility was situated at New Liskeard, Ontario in order to capitalize on several unique aspects of northern Ontario climate. As New Liskeard is located at a more northerly latitude than is typically reached by jet-stream weather patterns over the course of the growing season, the location of SPUD Unit at New Liskeard limits the impact of virus- transmitting aphids that typically travel via jet-stream. For this reason, the region is well suited to hosting a facility such as the SPUD Unit that specializes in virus-vulnerable crop production. Thus, aphid infestation and the accompanying virus impact does not have a history of infecting potato crops at the SPUD Unit. The cooler summer temperatures of northeastern Ontario climate offers sufficient time for verification of the potato selections propagated for distribution.

The SPUD Unit provides the following additional services:

Standard Operating Procedures for crops production

Biological and chemical testing of plant disease

On-demand virus-indexing of plant cultivars: meristem isolation, thermotherapy for viruses, biological screening for bacterial and fungal infections from plant material

Rapid micro-propagation of vegetative plants through tissue culture; allows for quick response to emerging cultivar demands of Ontario industry.

Field-based verification of micro-propagated test-tube plants; performed to confirm that test-tube plants conform “true to type”.

Virus-indexed plant genebank services for North American and international plant breeders; long-term storage & maintenance

Significance to Cross Border Trade

As propagative plant materials are pathways for plant pests that can readily spread into the domestic crop production systems of other nations, the bio-security of all propagative plant materials is of regulatory concern to Canada and Canadian trading partners. Currently, the SPUD Unit provides vital cross-border security measures for the Ontario seed potato industries:

  • The SPUD Unit is the only Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)-accredited Nuclear Stock Aseptic Facility for Seed Potatoes in Ontario; the facility continues to meet United States export certification requirements
  • The SPUD Unit operates under the Canadian Seeds Act and is annually inspected and certified by CFIA to ensure seed potato quality

SPUD Unit Rules of Operation

Cultivar Proprietor Use/Purpose/Important Traits or Attributes
CHALEUR, AC R Early, table
CHIEFTAIN R Red, table
DAKOTA PEARL R Table, chipper, uniform round
GOLDRUSH R Table, FF from short term storage
NORLAND, DARK RED R Red (stable color), early, table, FF
ONAWAY R Early white, table
SUPERIOR R Early white table
YUKON GOLD R Yellow flesh, table, FF
BLUE STEELE RP AAFC Blue purple flesh table
HALINA, AC RP AAFC Medium yellow flesh table
LAMOKA RP La Patate Chipper, res. GN ro1
YUKON GEM RP PVMI Table, late blight resistant
WANETA RP La Patate Chipper, table, res. GN ro1
ALL BLUE RG Purple skin, uneven purple flesh, table
BANANA R Pale yellow flesh fingerling table
CARIBE R Early, lavender skins white flesh table
CARLINGFORD R white waxy excellent packing table
CIKLAMEN R red skin white flesh table
ESTIMA R pale yellow table, processing
FIANNA R table, F.F.
FRENCH FINGERLING G red skin yellow flesh table
GERMAN BUTTERBALL R Golden table - boiled, baked, fried
INNOVATOR R FF, table, highly res to hollow heart
KESWICK R Mid season table
LINZER DELICATESS R Early yellow waxy long table
AUSTRIAN CRESCENT yellow fingerling table
MARIS PEER yellow table waxy
NICOLA yellow table scab resistant
RED THUMB Red fingerling table
Y3-8 B Cornell Ruby red skin, candy cane pink flesh
LaBelle Russet RP
Pomerelle Russet RP
SP326 RP Sunrise Potato Chipper, res. GN ro1
SP327 RP Sunrise Potato Chipper, res. GN ro1
SP328 B Sunrise Potato Parent for excellent LB and virus res, chipper
SP329 RP Sunrise Potato Chipper, res. GN ro1
SPT 92 B Sunrise Potato Table, Chipper, excellent virus res, has glandular trichomes
SPT 293 B Sunrise Potato Table, Chipper, excellent virus res, has glandular trichomes
PG 81 (PSPG1581) RP Sunrise Potato Organic table and FF, Res to late blight
PG 90 (PSPG1590) RP Sunrise Potato Organic table and FF, Res to late blight

R Identifies a registered potato variety under the Seeds Act as of September, 2021. Non-registered varieties can only be multiplied further for experimental, variety registration or export purposes. In addition, it can only be moved as certified seed potatoes between farm units in Canada if accompanied by a Certificate of Authorization.

P Identifies a variety that has received Plant Breeders’ Rights in Canada as of September, 2021 and may be subject to royalties.

G Identifies varieties listed under Garden Varieties. Under Section 65 of Part III of the Seeds Regulations unregistered potato varieties not for commercial production are exempted from the prohibition of sale contained in the Seeds Act. In order to distinguish between what is considered to be commercial and non-commercial production, this directive prescribes production limits within which garden variety seed potatoes remain eligible for certification.

B Identifies that the variety is still being controlled by the breeder.

GN ro1 identifies resistance to Golden nematodes race ro1.

FF identifies French fries.

LB identifies Multigenic late blight resistance

RES identifies resistance.