Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 3, 2012
Publication Date: February 1, 2012
Citation: Halterman, D.A. 2012. Trait selection in potatoes: trials, tribulations, and triumphs - inside the mind of the researcher. Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Grower Education Conference.
Cultivated potato is an intensively managed vegetable crop. It requires a great deal of input to obtain a crop that is suitable for fresh market or storage. There are myriad ways potato could be improved to reduce input costs, increase yield, and improve marketability. While it would be ideal to develop a “super potato” that has the highest possible output/input ratio, this isn’t really feasible due to having to work with a crop that is somewhat difficult to work with at the breeding and genetic levels. To get around this, researchers have studied better ways to grow the crop in the field. These areas of research, which include fertilizer application rates, row spacing, irrigation and storage conditions, are influenced by the cultivar that is being grown but are not limited by the genetics of the potato itself. While this improves production of the cultivars that are currently available, it does not necessarily move forward the improvement of the potato at the genetic level.
So, how does a researcher decide what traits to focus on in order to improve traits in potato? There are several factors that come into play. For the purpose of this article, I am going to focus on a description of traits for disease resistance, since this is what I am most familiar with. However, the reasoning behind the researcher/breeder’s choice to study a certain disease resistance trait could be applied to other economically important traits, such as yield, nutrient content, flavor, shape, etc. Several factors come into play when selecting a research area. These include: cost/funding availability, importance of the trait, competition (are there other people already working in the area), feasibility of the project, and impact on potato production. All of these factors need to be considered when deciding what areas to study.