New varieties of potatoes selected by the Texas A&M Potato Breeding Program could enter the french fries market before long, said Isabel Vales, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife potato breeder in Department of Horticultural Sciences in Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
During a recent field day in the Southern High Plains near Springlake, Vales discussed the latest potato clones the breeding program has passed through the pipeline.
“We are very excited about an experimental light russet potato clone that exhibits a very special characteristic: high starch percentage and high gravity, even under the very stressful high temperature conditions of Texas,” Vales said. “I think the French fry processing market, for which Texas hasn’t released a processing russet, is one possibility.”
The experimental potato identification is COTX08063-2Ru. The initial cross was made in Colorado and the selection in Texas.
Historically, Texas hasn’t been a player in this fry market, Vales said, primarily due to strong competition from the Northwest, which is very strong in this market.
“But also, in Texas, we can’t get the high solids required for the processing markets. Of all the experimental strains and clones we’ve evaluated over time, none of them had high severity,” Vales said. “The experimental clone COTX08063-2Ru has high density, even under high heat stress conditions in Texas, and makes very good fries. This is the second year this clone has competed in the National French Fries Trials. »
She said the amount of starch in potato tubers is the main factor determining the use of a potato. High solids or gravity means the potatoes are solid and dense. The potato yield is high, as is the starchy material. Potatoes that are high in starch are often used to make processed foods such as french fries, crisps, and dehydrated potatoes. Low to medium starch potatoes are frequently used for the fresh or table market.
Collaborate across state lines to reach multiple markets
Vales said the Texas A&M potato breeding program is part of the Potato Cultivar Development Project in the South West Regiona multi-state project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“The Southwestern program was established in 1997, and we are celebrating 25 years of successful collaboration,” she said.
In the United States, Vales explained, there are four regional potato variety development groups involving 12 breeding programs at public land-grant universities and others within the USDA Agricultural Research Service. . The regions are the northwest – Washington, Oregon and Idaho; North Central — North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan; Northeast — North Carolina, New York, Maine and Florida; and Southwest — Texas, Colorado and California.
“In the Southwest region, we don’t have a USDA-ARS contribution like the others,” she said.
Texas A&M University, Colorado State University, and University of California, Davis launched the Southwest Region Potato Cultivar Development Project to meet the unique needs of the potato industry of the area, Vales said.
Original crosses and selections are made in Colorado and Texas, followed by regional evaluation trials in the three states and other states in the western region – Oregon, Idaho and Washington. Some french fries and french fries clones enter national trials every year.
“In the United States, most potato breeding programs are public,” Vales said. “The level of cooperation in potato breeding is unprecedented; potatoes developed by the Southwestern program are planted throughout the United States and Canada. In the Southwest region, we also evaluate potatoes developed by other regional programs.
She added that while federal funding is the program’s primary source for public breeding, other funding comes from state departments of agriculture, national commodity groups like Potatoes USA, foundations, and in-kind support from producers. Additional funding comes from royalties from varieties released under Plant Breeders’ Rights, PVP, by the Texas A&M program.
“To get the PVP, we have to declare the potato varieties to be unique, distinct and stable,” Vales said. “Seed growers who plant PVP varieties have to pay royalties. Texas A&M has done very well in this regard. The amount we received last year was over $900,000, part of which is reinvested in the program.
Field Day Events Feature Texas A&M Varieties and Open Markets
Vales said trials at various locations around the state and field days are the best way to inform growers and the industry of the latest potato clones in the breeding pipeline.
“This year we had 180 different clones in the field day exhibit, representing the fresh market and processing classes,” she said. “In the processing class, we had fries and types of fries; in the fresh we had reds, yellows, purples, small and fry.
About 48 people from various US states and Canada attended the Springlake event. Attendees expressed interest in certain clones and shared priorities and challenges with the Texas A&M Potato Breeding Team and other attendees.
Selected early and advanced clones included in the field day are also being evaluated in agronomic trials in Dalhart and the San Luis Valley, Colorado, as well as in California around Bakersfield, South Central Valley and Tulelake, near the Oregon border.
Southwest Region Presents Unique Growing Conditions, Challenges for Potatoes
She said cooler nights promote higher yields and fewer tuber defects. For example, in Texas, yields increase with elevation and latitude, which means that “we generally get much higher yields and better tuber quality from the Dalhart trials located in the Texas Panhandle.”
High temperature during the growing season is a major abiotic stress in many of the southwestern region’s production areas, Vales said. Heat stress can trigger physiological defects and negatively affect tuber yield and quality. Susceptibility to internal tuber heat necrosis, growth cracks, reduced sugar accumulation, brown center, hollow heart and heat sprouts are assessed from field harvested tubers.
“The potato varieties we develop come in different sizes, shapes, textures and skin and flesh colors that meet different market needs,” Vales said. “For example, we collaborate with Tasteful Selections, looking for clones with many small tubers. We also grow fingerlings and bicolor potatoes. Recently, we developed a round redhead with pink eyes and yellow flesh that was given an exclusive release to explore new market opportunities.
Texas A&M Norkotah Russet strains continue to be the most popular, with 35 licensees in 12 states, she said. These are fresh market redheads. Two other fresh market Russets are gaining popularity: the Reveille Russet, which has doubled in size from 2020 to 2021, and the Vanguard Russet. The heat tolerance and long dormancy of Reveille Russet and Vanguard Russet are attractive traits for growers in the United States and Canada.
Expand potato markets beyond the South West region
Potato entrees are evaluated in each state’s trials for many traits, including French fries and French fries quality, Vales said. The best entries move to the southwest for two years and the western regional trials for up to three years. Superior clones are released as new varieties. Additionally, Colorado, Texas, and California participate in the National Chip Processor Trials and the National Chip Processor Trials. Advanced selections are also sent to collaborators across the United States and Canada.
Vales said the Southwest Region Project shares breeding stock and advanced selections with a dozen other states. Since the launch of the Southwest Region Potato Cultivar Development Project, 66 new cultivars and clonal selections have been published or co-published with other institutions. Colorado and Texas are responsible for 44 of them.
“These potato cultivars represent a substantial and growing share of national potato acreage and have contributed significantly to regional and national economies,” Vales said.
Several potato cultivars released by the Southwest region were listed in 2021 among the top 50 grown by seed acreage in the United States. Those developed in the region ranked second among the four regional projects, behind the North West and significantly ahead of North Central and North East projects. .