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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » Vegetable Crops Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #323298

Research Project: Potato Genetic Resource Management, Characterization, and Evaluation

Location: Vegetable Crops Research

Title: Exploring folate diversity in wild and primitive potatoes for modern crop improvement

item ROBINSON, B - Oregon State University
item SATHUVALLI, V - Oregon State University
item Bamberg, John
item GOYER, A - Oregon State University

Submitted to: Genes
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/25/2015
Publication Date: 12/8/2015
Publication URL:
Citation: Robinson, B.R., Sathuvalli, V., Bamberg, J., Goyer, A. 2015. Exploring folate diversity in wild and primitive potatoes for modern crop improvement. Genes. 6(4):1300-1314. doi:10.3390/genes6041300.

Interpretive Summary: Potato (Solanum tuberosum) is the most important vegetable crop in the US and world, and has a rich resource of about 100 wild relative species that can be used for breeding and research to improve the crop. Our national genebank responsible for keeping this resource is the US Potato Genebank, near Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Inadequate folate (a B vitamin) in the diet is a serious limitation worldwide, contributing to birth defects, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even impaired cognitive performance and depression. So if more folate could be bred into the potato crop, it could have great impact. We screened numerous potato species populations from the genebank, and then individuals within promising populations. We found that the exotic potato species Solanum andigenum, boliviense, and vernei have individuals with at least double the folate of typical potato varieties. Thus, this research has identified the best parents for breeding new potato varieties that are much higher in folate.

Technical Abstract: Malnutrition is one of the world’s largest health concerns. Folate (a.k.a. vitamin B9) is essential in the human diet and without adequate folate intake several serious health concerns such as congenital birth defects and an increased risk of stroke and heart disease can occur. Most people’s folate intake remains sub-optimal even in countries that have a folic acid food fortification program in place. Staple crops such as potatoes represent an appropriate organism for biofortification through traditional breeding based on their worldwide consumption and the fact that modern cultivars only contain about 6% of the daily recommended intake of folate. To start breeding potatoes with enhanced folate content, high folate potato material must be identified. In this study, 257 individual plants from 95 accessions and 10 Solanum species were screened for their folate content using a tri-enzyme extraction and microbial assay. There was a 10-fold range of folate concentrations among individuals. Certain individuals within the species Solanum tuberosum subsp. andigenum, Solanum vernei and Solanum boliviense have the potential to produce more than double the folate concentrations of commercial cultivars such as Russet Burbank. Our results show that tapping into the genetic diversity of potato is a promising approach to increase the folate content of this important crop.