Michigan State University Produces New Potato

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New Potatoes

Like nearly every other sector of the produce industry, the potato industry is under constant pressure to satisfy consumer and grower needs. According to David Douches, a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Michigan State University (MSU), the cultivated potato, Solanum tuberosum, is the most important vegetable crop and the fourth most important food crop in the world. In addition to the fresh market, the potato is an important food for the French fry, chipping, and starch processing industries. 

New varieties are central to the health and growth of the potato industry, Douches says, and MSU’s breeding program continues to address market and production-limiting traits. Key traits are chip quality (low reducing sugars) from storage, scab resistance, late blight resistance, beetle resistance, bruise resistance, starch content, abiotic stress, and nutritional enhancement. 

“If host plant resistance can be increased for both insects and pathogens, pest control costs can be reduced and production management strategies may be simplified,” Douches says.

Potato growers continue to seek chip-processing quality plus long-term storage, scab resistance, Potato Virus Y resistance, late blight resistance, and potato early dying resistance in new potato varieties, according to Douches.

“Among the chip-processing potatoes, there is a major effort across the breeding programs to combine chip-processing and scab resistance,” Douches says. “Also, there are efforts to identify any out-of-the-field chipping potatoes that will replace Atlantic.”

MSU’s breeding program has recently released Kalkaska, a scab-resistant chip-processing potato, and co-released a variety with University of Maine named Beacon Chipper, which has moderate common scab resistance and storage potential. The University of Wisconsin also released Megachip a few years ago that is growing in interest, Douches says.

“Simplot has been developing potatoes that have reduced blackspot bruise, resistance to sugar accumulation, and lower aspargine to improve processing quality,” he adds.

Douches says growers should look for new varieties from MSU, Cornell University, University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, and North Dakota State University in 2009. All of these universities have advanced breeding lines suited for the chip-processing market that should be released this year or soon after.

New Research Effort

Last fall, USDA’s National Research Iniative funded a four-year project to translate the advances in plant genomics to tools that can be used by potato and tomato breeders. The project, called the Solanaceae Coordinated Agricultural Project (SolCAP), is headed by Douches, who as project director involves scientists from Michigan State University, Cornell University, The Ohio State University, University of California-Davis, and Oregon State University.

“Through the research efforts, there will be mapping studies to link processing and nutitional traits with genetic markers the plant breeder can use in variety development,” Douches says. “Additional mapping studies will be supported in the breeding community to link resistance traits. This research will be coupled with workshops for the breeders to use the new marker technology.”

SolCAP will also be using www.eXtension.org to disseminate information to the potato and tomato industries in the coming years, Douches says. More information is available on the SolCAP Web site, www.solcap.msu.edu.

Laura Drotleff is managing editor of Greenhouse Grower and Today's Garden Center.

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