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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Wapato, Washington » Temperate Tree Fruit and Vegetable Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #308130

Title: Russet Burbank, no ordinary potato

item Brown, Charles

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/19/2014
Publication Date: 2/15/2015
Citation: Brown, C.R. 2015. Russet Burbank, no ordinary potato. HortScience. 50:157-160.

Interpretive Summary: The historical trajectory is almost beyond belief. Selected in his mother's garden from 23 seedling from a single ruit of Early Rose, by Luther Burbank) the clone that eventually became Russet Burbank begun under humble circumstance, was sold for $150 to a seedsman, and never stopped growing. Today it is worth 46 % of the farmgate value of potato in the US. It bcame the standard around which all processing was tailored. French fry factories were built for Russet Burbank. Its good taste, structure and ready available nearly year round from advanced modern storages has made it difficult to displace. MacDonalds makes more money from its fries than from its burgers.The tremendous succeess of Russet Burbank may come from the fact that it was the least susceptible varriety to late blight for nearly seventy years. No one would say it is resistant, but in the decades after the appearance of late blight world wide, even a little bit of help from resistance was significant and changed the picture of late blight damage in the crop it is the most successful potato variety every selected and remains so 140 years after it was first selected.

Technical Abstract: The Russet Burbank potato variety currently occupies first place in acreage planted in North America and is worth in the United States 1.4 billion dollars annually. It is a sport of the Burbank potato which was selected by Luther Burbank in 1873. The ancestry of Burbank stems from a plant introduction brought to the United States by the Rev. Chauncey Goodrich of New York State in 1853. The state of potato breeding had been transformed by repetitive crop failures caused by the emergence of the plant pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Modern testing suggests that derivatives of Goodrich’s potatoes were slightly more resistant to Phytophthora. Burbank discovered a single fruit on one of these derivatives, Early Rose, in his mother’s garden. Taking the twenty-three true seeds, he nursed them to full size plants and selected ultimately No. 15. It produced an unusually high yield of large very oblong tubers, stored well and was a good eating potato. Burbank’s life was destined for a long career in California and he attempted to sell the clone to J. H. J. Gregory of Gregory’s Honest Seeds, a successful businessman. Ultimately Gregory agreed to buy it for 150 dollars, far less than Burbank wanted, but enough to propel him to California. Gregory named the potato Burbank’s Seedling, which no doubt engendered fame for the entrepreneur. L.uther Burbank had been allowed by Gregory to keep ten tubers, which became the seed source for the Burbank seedling to spread north and south along the West Coast of North America with a crop value, stated by Burbank, of 14 million dollars in 1914. It is not clear that Burbank prospered from the Burbank Seedling in the West. In 1902 a skin sport with a russet skin was found in Montana. Called Netted Gem, it was soon called Russet Burbank in the United States. Burbank Seedling per se disappeared from commerce and Russet Burbank slowly increased, finding a special niche in production of French Fry potatoes. It is clear that Luther Burbank gained tremendous insight into the dynamics of hybridization in revealing genetic variation from clonally propagated species from potato. During the rest of his career he would use this technique to produce new and amazing forms of numerous food and ornamental species. The Burbank Seedling was his entrez into the world of plant breeding.