Researchers release 15 new potato varieties

Genomic tools are increasingly used to identify favourable traits 
and speed the breeding process

Reds, a wedge with an edge, and a super storer are among this year’s new potato selections from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Red-skinned varieties made up half of the total selections that Ag Canada potato breeders released earlier this month during their annual release open house. This includes a multi-purpose variety that shows promise for processing as wedges and as a traditional table potato. Breeders have also developed Russet selections that have a longer shelf life in cold storage while maintaining stable sugars, making them attractive new selections to french fry processors. In all, 15 potato selections were unveiled this year.

The selections were narrowed down from more than 100,000 hybrid seedlings that were grown, tested, and measured over six years in Agriculture Canada greenhouses, laboratories, and fields across the country.

Researchers are increasingly using DNA technology to identify genes and strands linked to favourable traits. This will lead to the development of germplasm with the potential for better yields, nutritional value, and cooking and processing qualities. The selections also feature disease and pest resistance that makes them less demanding on the environment and offers alternative choices for organic growers. With each genetic marker that is identified, researchers are able to more quickly and accurately search through hundreds of different kinds of potatoes (including centuries’ old heritage varieties and wild species) for potential breeding lines that will produce new hybrids with the desired traits.

Alberta is Canada’s third-largest producer of potatoes, trailing only P.E.I. and Manitoba. Production is centred in irrigated areas near Lethbridge, Taber, Vauxhall, and the Bassano-Brooks region, and the Edmonton and Lacombe areas are important seed potato production regions. An average of 52,500 planted acres were reported for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 crop years. The sector generates about $1 billion of economic activity annually.

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