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Rich Novy and Dennis Corsini dig up a potato plant. Link to photo information
Rich Novy (left) and Dennis Corsini (now retired) dig up and examine Alturas potato plants and tubers. Click the image for more information about it.

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Spud Soars to Top Five in Idaho

By Marcia Wood
January 18, 2007

Delicious and versatile, Alturas potatoes are also highly popular with knowledgeable growers. This tuber, from Agricultural Research Service scientists and their university colleagues, rates as the fifth most commonly planted potato in Idaho—the state that produces more potatoes than any other.

Alturas is suitable for processing not only into frozen potato products--or dehydrated foods such as instant potato flakes--but also for fresh-pack sale in supermarkets. That's according to Richard G. Novy of the agency's Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit in Aberdeen, Idaho, about 200 miles southeast of Boise. Novy is a co-developer of the top-ranked tuber, along with Joseph J. Pavek and Dennis L. Corsini, formerly with the agency at Aberdeen and now retired; plant geneticist Charles R. Brown with ARS at Prosser, Wash.; and university co-investigators in that state, as well as in Idaho and Oregon.

After more than a decade of evaluations—including taste tests, trials in research fields, and experiments at potato-processing plants—the scientists decided to offer Alturas potato to growers in 2002.

Their decision came after the tuber had, for example, met the exacting standards of taste-test panelists and had, in the outdoor trials, yielded more potatoes than the classic Russet Burbank—the "American Idol" of the potato world, against which all promising experimental potatoes are compared.

Alturas has a light netting or russeting, which distinguishes russets from other potato types, on its light-tan skin, with white flesh inside.

Researchers named Alturas for a prehistoric lake that once covered much of south-central Idaho.

The tuber is one in a series of top-quality potatoes developed through the collaborative research of ARS scientists in Idaho and Washington, and their university colleagues in those states and in Oregon. The tubers help growers satisfy America's appetite for potatoes, the nation's favorite vegetable.

Potatoes provide fiber, vitamin C, potassium and other important nutrients.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.