Agricultural Research Service Scientists Develop Noteworthy Potato Varieties in the Pacific Northwest

Richard Novy2

The development of a new potato variety takes 12 plus years and the expertise of many scientific disciplines.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Richard Novy, Jonathan Whitworth, Roy Navarre, James Crosslin, and Chuck Brown have achieved just that.

Some of the noteworthy varieties that have come out of the program include:

  • Premier Russet, a midto late-season variety notable for its high yield of oblong-long, medium russeted tubers
  • Classic Russet, an earlymaturing, russeted clone, well-suited for use by the fresh-pack industry
  • Alturas, used primarily for processing, but also rated highly for its culinary quality
  • Defender, a high yielding, lightly russeted, processing potato
  • Highland Russet, a midto late-season variety notable for its high yield of uniform, oblong-long, lightly russetted tubers
  • IdaRose, a medium to late maturing selection with bright red skin and round tuber for the fresh market
  • Purple Pelisse, a mid-season specialty potato with purple skin and dark purple flesh, with excellent taste, and high levels of antioxidants
  • Yukon Gem, a high yielding, mid-season selection with lightyellow flesh.

There are two serious obstacles faced by ARS potato breeders. The first is associated with crossing and the second is the time it takes to improve breeding material to agronomically useful levels. Crossing is the way that genes encoding important agronomic traits are moved into useful potato lines.

Wild relatives of potato are a very important source of agronomically important genes and crossing with wild relatives is extremely difficult.

Crossing with them requires a long series of intermediate crosses, until a line is generated that can be eventually crossed with a breeding potato. In addition, the fact that the genome in potato is extremely large and highly diverse means that each time a cross is performed, it is like completely reshuffling a deck of cards.

These factors contribute to the second major obstacle. Whether the breeding line was derived from a cross with a wild relative or a variety not adapted to Pacific Northwest growing conditions, it takes a long time with intense work to improve breeding material to generate a useful clone.

Despite the obstacles, federal reserachers have developed and transferred a technology that will enhance dinner tables and restaurant menus nationwide, maybe worldwide!