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Spuds from ARS Potato Breeders
By Marcia Wood
January 14, 2003
A perfectly baked potato, topped
with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives, makes a hearty addition
to supper on a cold winter evening. Agricultural Research Service potato
breeders and their university and industry colleagues are helping bring newer
and better potatoes from research fields to your fork.
These improved potatoes resist attack by natural enemies such as microbes
that cause plant diseases. And, some of the new varieties hold up in cold
storage better than their predecessors--an especially important trait for
potatoes that need to be set aside until there's time to process them into
fries, for instance. That's according to Richard G. Novy, a plant geneticist
with the ARS Small
Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit at Aberdeen, Idaho, about 200
miles southeast of Boise.
The Aberdeen potato-breeding research is among the best known in the nation.
ARS scientists work with university co-investigators in Washington, Oregon and
Idaho as part of the
Potato Variety Development Program. This program produced, for example,
Ranger Russet potato. Made available to potato breeders and seed growers in
1991, Ranger Russet is now the third most-widely planted potato variety in the
More recently, the team has developed such tasty new tubers as Alturas. In
tests in three Western states, Alturas yielded 37 percent more tubers than
Russet Burbank, the industry standard. Other examples include Ivory Crisp, a
round, white potato ideal for processing into chips, and Klamath Russet, a
fresh-market potato that researchers showed was ideal for planting in the
Klamath Basin of southern Oregon and northern California.
Potatoes are a convenient source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium.
An article in the current issue of the ARS monthly journal, Agricultural
Research, tells more about progress in potato breeding.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief research agency.