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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Sugarbeet & Potato Research Unit



To improve the quality and profitability of sugarbeet and potato production through fundamental research on germplasm enhancement, crop protection, and postharvest physiology.



Sucrose Accumulation and Retention in Sugarbeets:  Research focuses on sugarbeet sucrose metabolism with the objective of increasing sucrose yields in this crop.  The major emphasis of this research is the study of sucrose degradative pathways and their contribution to sucrose losses during sugarbeet root development and postharvest storage.  Regulation of these pathways is studied to identify potential changes in cultural or storage practices or genetic modification that would lead to increased sucrose yield.

Research is focused on four major objectives:  1) the development and release of agronomically useful germplasm with resistance to the sugarbeet root maggot, 2) determination of the inheritance and interrelationships among traits related to sucrose yield and extractability, 3) the introduction of genetic diversity into the commercial sugarbeet crop by intercrossing adapted sugarbeet lines with wild relatives of sugarbeet and selecting the progeny for traits related to sucrose yield, extactability, and pest resistance, and 4) evaluation of biocontrol agents that may reduce dependence of producers on chemical insecticides for sugarbeet root maggot control.

Enhancing Pathogen Detection and Crop Protection in Sugarbeet using Molecular Technologies:  The objectives of this project are to characterize that host's defense genes and mechanisms against pathogens of sugarbeet with particular emphasis on the fungus Cercospora beticola, the oomycete Aphanomyces cochlioides, and viral-induced Rhizomania.  For Cercospora leaf spot disease, mechanisms of host resistance based on the inhibition of phytotoxins and hydrolyzing enzymes are being investigated.  Control of Aphanomyces seedling disease and root rot are examined through induced resistance and the inhibition of cell-wall degrading enzymes.  New forms of genetic resistance to Rhizomania are being identified.  The project also identifies biochemicals that serve as virulence factors for the fungi studied.


Identification and Manipulation of Postharvest Physiological and Molecular Processes Controlling Potato Nutritional and Market Quality:  Research determines the physiological and biochemical processes that regulate the postharvest physiology of potatoes.  Current research is directed toward determining the internal and external factors that affect tuber dormancy and postharvest sprouting in order to improve the nutritional and processing qualities of stored potatoes.  Three research objectives are currently being addressed:  1) determining the role of plant hormones in tuber dormancy control and identifying the biochemical processes that regulate hormone levels and activities, 2) identifying the cellular bases for dormancy-imposed growth inhibition in tuber buds (eyes), and 3) determining the mechanism-of-action of sprout-control agents.  The formation obtained in these studies will assist in the development of improved sprout-control technologies for use in commercial potato storage. 

Resistance to potato skinning injury, and rapid wound-healing/suberization of cut seed and harvested potatoes provide durable resistance to tuber infections and development of related rots and defects.  The objectives of this research are to: 1) determine the biological mechanisms that induce and regulate tuber wound-healing/suberization, and 2) determine markers for the development of resistance to tuber skinning injury and characterize the processes initiating and regulating this resistance.  These objectives are steps toward the long range goal of developing technologies to enhance wound-healing and resistance to skinning injury, and thereby minimize rot type infections, tuber damage and defects.

Improved Potato Market Quality through Germplasm Processing Evaluations and Optimized Storage Technologies:  The primary objective of this assignment is to develop and operate a long-term, standardized program evaluating new potato germplasm from U.S. public breeding programs thereby expediting introduction of new cultivars with improved raw quality and increased nutritional levels for processing from long-term storage.  Additional research identifies optimum storage conditions for improved market and processing qualities. 

Research for the Sugarbeet & Potato Research Unit is conducted at the following locations.

Northern Crop Science Laboratory located at

(Physical Address) 1307 18th Street N., Fargo, ND58102-2765

(Mailing Address) 1605 Albrecht Blvd N, Fargo, ND58102-2765

Potato Research Worksite located at 311 5th Avenue N.E., East Grand Forks, MN 56721

Directions (external link to



Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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