Click image for caption and
other photo information.
Tri-State Potato Breeding Program Dishes Out
Big Returns By Jan
February 28, 2003
Americans eat more than 140 pounds of spuds per capita annually.
What they may not know is that there's a lot of science in every bite--some
(Tri-State) Potato Variety Development Program. The program is a
cooperative effort that draws on plant genetics, agronomy and other scientific
disciplines to breed new, improved spuds.
Begun in 1985, the program pools resources and expertise from
the Agricultural Research Service,
Oregon State University,
Washington State University and the
University of Idaho. Each state's potato
commission and industry representatives also participate. The results to date:
18 new potato varieties credited with safeguarding the Tri-State region against
crop diseases and foreign competition.
In 2001 alone, the varieties' commercial use on 102,000 acres
generated $295 million in farm sales for Tri-State growers, who produce 54
percent of the nation's tuber crop. The breeding program begins at two ARS
Grains and Potato Germplasm in Aberdeen, Idaho, and
Vegetable and Forage Crops in
At Prosser, ARS geneticist Charles Brown identifies and develops
potato germplasm with desired traits. ARS Aberdeen geneticists Richard Novy and
Joseph Pavek (retired) then cross that and other germplasm with genetically
compatible parent lines, producing 800 to 900 families and 175,000 seedlings
annually. Before his retirement, ARS plant pathologist Dennis Corsini checked
for disease resistance and physiological disorders and maintained disease-free
seed. Stephen Love of the University of Idaho, Alvin Mosley of Oregon State
University and Robert Thorton of Washington State University coordinate their
states' agronomic trials, postharvest evaluations and disease-resistance
checks. They also help select breeding material worthy of additional
Of interest are traits--such as low sugar content and storage
stability--that qualify spuds for fresh-market sales and processing into foods
such as french fries, chips and frozen potato products. Breeding potatoes
resistant to late blight fungus also is a main objective because of the
environmental benefits and a potential fungicide savings averaging $160 per
Producing a "finished" potato variety takes 12 to 15 years, but
the wait is worthwhile. For every $1 invested in the program, there's a $38
return to the economy.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.