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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Improved Breeding and Variety Evaluation Methods to Reduce Acrylamide Content and Increase Quality in Processed Potato Products

Location: Vegetable Crops Research Unit

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
1. Partner with industry to implement a coordinated, nationwide, fast-track evaluation and deployment of processing varieties to reduce acrylamide in processed products in the near term. 2. Identify and validate molecular markers associated with key agronomic and tuber quality traits that can be used to increase the efficiency of potato breeding programs. 3. Establish quantitative goals for tuber reducing sugars and asparagine in next generation potato varieties and identify breeding parents with high potential for meeting these goals. 4. Establish quality criteria critical for maintenance and enhancement of end products. 5. Conduct an economic analysis to estimate the value of new potato varieties and/or production methods to growers, processors and rural communities that reduce acrylamide in finished products. Include in the analysis the benefits of eliminating cold-induced sweetening and sugar-end defect. 6. Quantify the net value and risk to industry associated with introducing new varieties and associated management practices. Consider the value and risk of conventionally bred and GM potatoes. 7. Produce a roadmap for developing and deploying potato varieties that exceed expectations for quality throughout the potato industry and consistently yield chip and processed potato products with acrylamide contents lower than current benchmarks. 8. Begin implementation of this process in cooperation with key stakeholders including growers and grower organizations, potato seed producers, processors, distributors and the food service industry.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Our goal is to reduce the acrylamide content of processed potato products in the short term, and lay the foundation for removing concerns about acrylamide in potato in the next decade. To do this will require a coordinated effort that requires the input and involvement of industry, research and extension personnel at every step.

The Fast-track variety evaluation process implemented by the USPB Chip Committee established a precedent for what we are proposing, and many of the project leaders and cooperators working on this proposal have participated in that process. In brief, we propose a multidisciplinary attack on the acrylamide problem that uses basic research, plant breeding, economic assessment, variety evaluation and deployment to bring varieties with low acrylamide forming potential to market. An overriding requirement for each activity is acceptance of products and practices at all levels of the potato industry including growers, processors, packers, distributors, marketers, and end users.

Research. Research is focused on establishing quantitative goals for tuber reducing sugars and asparagine in next generation potato varieties, and on identify breeding parents with high potential for meeting these goals.

Breeding. There are two essential breeding components. Making rapid improvements in potato varieties requires that we identify and validate molecular markers associated with key agronomic and tuber quality traits. These will then be used to increase the efficiency of potato breeding programs.

Economic assessment. Change may be beneficial, but is always associated with risk. We will conduct an economic analysis to estimate the value of new potato varieties and/or production methods to growers, processors and rural communities that reduce acrylamide in finished products. We will also quantify the net value and risk to industry associated with introducing new varieties and associated management practices.

Variety evaluation and deployment. We need to partner with industry to implement a coordinated, nationwide, fast-track evaluation and deployment process for varieties that reduce acrylamide in processed products. Part of this process must be rigorous field, storage and processing evaluations to gain acceptance by industry partners. Our goal is that these varieties exceed expectations for quality throughout the potato industry and consistently yield chip and processed potato products with acrylamide contents lower than current benchmarks.


3.Progress Report:

This project was renumbered from 3655-21000-049-30R to 3655-21000-002-12R. The National Fry Processor Trial and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) on acrylamide reduction in processed potato products are evaluating advanced fry processing clones from United States potato breeding programs for their ability to produce commercial products that have lower amounts of acrylamide than that found in current products. Acrylamide is a compound formed in trace amounts during high temperature cooking of many foods. Health concerns about acrylamide in food exist, primarily because acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in rodents. In 2012, 88 trial clones were grown in field plots in Idaho, Washington, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Maine. Tubers from each site were shipped to the Potato Research Worksite in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. There they were assayed for specific gravity and content of sucrose and glucose. Tubers were also converted into French fries using a process that is similar to that used by commercial fry processors. Finished fries and raw tuber samples were frozen and set away for analysis of asparagine content in raw tubers and acrylamide content in finished fries. The data collected are used by potato breeders, potato researchers, and industry to evaluate each clone. This is an integrated effort between industry, academia and USDA research staff. Forty percent of the effort involved in measuring specific gravity and sugars and producing fries is supported by this acrylamide mitigation project.

During discussions with cooperating researchers and industry representatives, a need was identified for an online database of trial results from the National Fry Processor Trial. That database needed to capture and display a common set of key metrics for each clone tested. It also needed to present the information in a user-friendly format that would facilitate discussions about individual clones and aid in identifying superior clones for advancement to larger scale trials. A database meeting these criteria was developed and deployed and is currently being tested by select stakeholders prior to general release.

The amount of the simple sugars glucose and fructose in raw potato tubers is one of the most important determinants of a variety’s acrylamide-forming potential. These sugars combine with the amino acid asparagine during cooking to produce acrylamide. Tuber sugar contents are under strong environmental and genetic control. Lines of potato varieties, Atlantic, Dakota Pearl, and MegaChip in which the gene primarily responsible for the formation of glucose and fructose had been turned off using molecular techniques were grown in research field plots. Harvested tubers were stored at 38 and 48°F for up to six months. At regular intervals after harvest, tubers were assayed for the expression of key genes involved in sugar accumulation and these data were related to observed tuber sugar contents. These relationships are providing novel insights into the regulation of tuber sugars, and this will allow us to define more precisely requirements for chip processing lines that produce low acrylamide products.

This research substantially completes Objective 1, Partner with industry to implement a coordinated, nationwide, fast-track evaluation and deployment of processing varieties to reduce acrylamide in processed products in the near term. This research is contributing to Objective 2, Identify and validate molecular markers associated with key agronomic and tuber quality traits that can be used to increase the efficiency of potato breeding programs, by determining relationships between acrylamide precursors and acrylamide content in finished products and by contributing data to research efforts focused on using mapping populations to develop molecular markers for acrylamide in finished products and acrylamide precursors in raw tubers. Progress on Objective 4, Establish quality criteria critical for maintenance and enhancement of end products, and Objective 7, Produce a roadmap for developing and deploying potato varieties that exceed expectations for quality throughout the potato industry and consistently yield chip and processed potato products with acrylamide contents lower than current benchmarks, is being made through ongoing discussions with multiple industry partners. Objective 8, Begin implementation of this process in cooperation with key stakeholders including growers and grower organizations, potato seed producers, processors, distributors and the food service industry has been substantially completed.


Last Modified: 10/20/2014
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