Selection and Management of New Potato Lines Adapted to Southwest Idaho
During the past eleven seasons (1999-2009) the proportion of acreage planted to Russet Burbank has dropped from 74 to 56% in Idaho, 43 to 20% in Oregon and from 41% to 31% in Washington. The drop in Russet Burbank acreage has been accompanied by an increase in the production of new varieties such as Ranger Russet, Russet Norkotah and Umatilla Russet. One of the driving forces behind this trend is the need for producers in this region to improve production efficiency to remain competitive. The need for more rapid adoption of new potato varieties has recently been heightened due to public debate about sustainability in agriculture, nutritional issues relating to human health, and climate change. As the most widely planted vegetable crop, potatoes have taken a center role in these debates. Potato producers in Idaho and other states already strive
to optimize applications of inputs, but Russet Burbank is relatively input intensive due to low resistance to disease and environmental stress. One of the best ways to meet consumer demands for more sustainable potato production practices is through adoption of new potato varieties with increased pest and stress resistance. The Northwest Potato Variety Development Program has released more than 15 new varieties in the past 10 years, many with the ability to produce higher yields and quality than traditional varieties with fewer inputs. Efforts are currently underway to increase the nutrient content of potatoes through breeding and biotechnology. Increasing the nutritive value of potatoes by itself does not guarantee that consumers will choose to purchase new cultivars with these attributes. Skin quality has been shown to be the major factor in consumer acceptance of specialty potato
cultivars. Skin color and brightness are key attributes that draw consumers to these novel potatoes. Enhancing skin color may also improve nutrient content as the skin is a primary location for many phytonutrients. Potatoes have become an important source of food in developing countries, especially in tropical regions. It has been estimated that climate change will increase average global temperatures by up to 5.8oC over the next 100 years. This will lead to a shift in production towards higher latitudes and an increase in the need for heat and water stress tolerant varieties. The potato production region in southwest Idaho provides a good location to select for stress tolerance due to the relatively mild winters and long, hot summers. This project will evaluate new potato cultivars for adaptability to southwest Idaho and develop management information to help growers more effectively
adopt new cultivars.