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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Brown, Charles - Chuck
item Sorensen, Erik

Submitted to: Potato Progress
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/15/2003
Publication Date: 9/12/2003

Interpretive Summary: The public's conception of diversity of potato varieties encompasses just a fraction of the total variety in type, size and color. Unusual varieties of potatoes are referred to as specialty varieties. They are interesting for their potential to diversify markets, providing new avenues to sell potatoes and enhanced pricing. Also they expand the types of processed products and the nutritional justifications for consuming potatoes. Yellow, red and purple flesh potatoes have higher levels of several pigments that are known antioxidants. One type of specialty potato, the fingerling, of which there are several distinct types, command extraordinarily high prices and is coveted by restaurants. Specialty potatoes do not have prescribed marketing routes. Furthermore, year to year demand may fluctuate tremendously. The sudden increase of production may totally saturate the demand. resulting in unsalable raw product. However, specialty potatoes are ideal for small scale businesses that are willing to explore low volume sales strategies, including farmer's markets. The consumer is very curious about specialty potatoes and eager to try out unfamiliar types. Likewise, the processing industry is keen to identify varieties that can be turned into appealing products with augmented nutritional attributes and new appearances.

Technical Abstract: The term specialty potato variety refers to types of potato that are grown on a small scale and have one or more traits that are unusual. The unusual traits consist of small size, shape (such as the small and long narrow shape of the fingerling type), pigmentation of skin and/or flesh. Potatoes with yellow flesh have higher levels of carotenoids than white flesh potato. Red and purple flesh potatoes have high levels of anthocyanins. Specialty potatoes are usually grown on a small scale and are marketed in non-traditional fashions. One specialty potato, Yukon Gold, has grown in production that it is handled more like mainstream varieties. Specialty potatoes were grown under center pivot irrigation in the Columbia Basin by in 2002. A number of the specialty varieties yielded as much as traditional processing varieties such as Umatilla, Ranger Russet and Russet Burbank. One red fleshed experimental clone, PA97B23-2, had a total yield that was second and a second clone PA97B36-3, yield tenth out of the 42 clones and varieties tested. Desiree, a red skinned, yellow flesh variety that is widely grown in the rest of the world, but considered specialty in the US had the highest total yield. Out of the fingerlings, French Fingerling had the highest yield and surprisingly nearly half of the yield was over four ounces in size. Clearly, in the Columbia Basin under standard commercial cultivation conditions, specialty potatoes are competitive.

Last Modified: 06/28/2017
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