Breeding

One in 100,000: Breeders in Rhinelander seek the next commercial potato variety

Last Thursday, Jeffrey Endelman stood in a windy field east of Rhinelander and fished a diagram out of his fanny pack. “I’m continuing my selections in family number 91, at the moment, as I round the corner,” he explained to Ben Meyer of WXPR. Endelman was inspecting some of the 170 tillable acres at UW-Madison’s Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station. Over the decades, UW-Madison’s program has become one of the premier potato breeding programs in the country.

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MSU researchers breeding beetle-resistant potato varieties

Potato farmers face many challenges. One tiny, yet devastating, pest is the Colorado potato beetle. It can cause immense damage to potato crops. It’s also notorious for becoming resistant to chemical insecticides. In a new study, published in Crop Science, researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) describe genetic tools to develop potato varieties with improved natural resistance to the potato bug.

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Australian researchers study whether ‘plant medicines’ could help treat cancer, obesity

“Plant cures” are the key to world-first research by a team of scientists at the University of Queensland (UQ), led by Professor David Craik. “We’re engineering plants into super-efficient producers of next-generation medicines,” Professor Craik said. “So we want to put molecules into, say, potatoes, so that effectively you can have your french fries and not worry about the consequences.”

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Scottish treasure trove of rare potato species could hold secrets to potato problems

A priceless living library of rare potato species is being trawled for traits which could offer resistance to pests, diseases, viruses and  the looming issue of climate change. The Commonwealth Potato Collection (CPC), the only potato gene bank in the UK and only one of a handful in Europe, is located at the James Hutton Institute (JHI) campus at Invergowrie, and is regarded by geneticists as  a vital resource for potato breeders.

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‘Red Candy’: Technico’s early maturing red skinned table potato variety

In India, in North Bengal and in the Bihar regions, potato farmers have long awaited an early bulking potato variety with better storability to cater for evolving grower needs. Until now, the absence of such a variety with this unique combination of characteristics has left farmers either to miss the early market opportunity to reap better prices or book higher losses during storage. Red Candy, a new variety launched by Technico Agri Sciences Ltd, aptly addresses the potato growers’ needs and help them to reap the twin benefits of early bulking with better storability.

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‘G+ Tools’: A new gender-responsive toolkit for breeding

In response to the challenges of climate change, growing demands for food, and persistent malnutrition, crop breeders across the Global South are developing more resilient, productive and nutritious potato varieties. The G+ Tools – a new gender-responsive toolkit for breeding developed by the International Potato Center and the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas – promises to address this barrier by advancing a holistic framework to evaluate what traits men and women, farmers and consumers want in their potato, sweetpotato, cassava, and other crop varieties.

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US researchers identify potato cultivars with a low glycemic index

A team of researchers at Montana State University and North Dakota State University recently reported on results of a study into potato varieties thought to have a low glycemic index (GI). The research team evaluated 60 potato cultivars to identify cultivars with low amylopectin – that are thought to have low GI potential. The researchers identified five most promising cultivars.

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Cover crops: Measuring nitrogen in green manures

Both chemical fertilizers and cover crops can help build the nitrogen content in soil. But cover crops come with many other benefits, like improving soil structure and boosting beneficial microbes. Katherine Muller and her team are working on strategies to measure nitrogen fixation in breeding programs for two common cover crops: crimson clover and hairy vetch.

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A blight-resistant gmo potato variety help farmers in Uganda to defeat late blight and change their fortunes

Successful innovation for agriculture will depend on thorough and careful understanding of the aspirations of beneficiaries and the challenges farmers face. It entails putting them at the center of these innovations, according to this blog post by the International Potato Center (CIP). As part of its work to research solutions addressing hunger and poverty, CIP and partners worked in Uganda to develop and test a new type of blight-resistant potato, which may not need any fungicides.

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Texas A&M potato breeding program to show off latest varieties

The annual Texas A&M Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program Field Day, hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Barrett Potato Farms, will be July 28. Isabel Vales, Ph.D., AgriLife Research potato breeder Vales said it has been a challenging year to grow potatoes in Springlake. Potatoes emerged late and had to endure inclement weather. “It is a miracle to see tubers underground,” she said.

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Scientists’ view on how to tackle worrying emerging potato blight strains

Breeders in Britain believe they have the tools to stay one step ahead of late blight in potatoes, despite concern about new and more aggressive strains emerging across Europe. Since 2000, researchers have had technology that allows rapid identification of any genetic changes – or new “clones” – in populations of Phytophthora infestans. In the Netherlands, Wageningen-based Solynta’s research team lead Michiel de Vries says it is now up to the breeding companies to develop resistant varieties.

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‘New plants for carbon farming’: Can breeders actually do it?

As agriculture looks to better farming practices to sequester more carbon, breeders look to make new crops to help, writes SeedWorld’s Joe Funk in this article. “Carbon sequestration”, he says, “it’s a buzzword that’s slowly trickling down into agriculture practices. But how could breeding for carbon farming actually help the industry?”

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New discovery to have a profound impact on potato breeding

Researchers at the hybrid potato breeding company Solynta and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) have identified, cloned and characterized the gene for self-compatibility in potatoes called “Sli”. This discovery will have a profound impact on potato breeding. With Sli defined, breeders can implement hybrid breeding which will allow for faster and focused rather than opportunistic breeding. The technique could also help to quickly develop new potato varieties that are adapted to local conditions such as drought or flooding.

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Ag associations on potato breeding: GMO legislation in the EU ‘no longer fit for purpose’

Europatat, Copa-Cogeca, Euroseeds and Starch Europe last week released a co-signed statement in which they support the conclusions of an EU Commission study, saying that the current GMO legislation in the EU ‘faces clear implementation challenges and is no longer fit for purpose’. The associations say: “We strongly welcome the Commission’s intention to initiate a short-term policy action on plants derived from targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis. We hope that such a policy initiative will create a more enabling and innovation-friendly environment for products resulting from these breeding methods.”

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Chinese scientists make breakthrough in potato breeding

A research team led by Professor Huang Sanwen with the Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen initiated the “Upotato Plan”, which utilized the theory and methods of genome design to carry out hybrid potato breeding, ‘re-inventing’ the potato from a clonally propagated tetraploid crop into an inbred line-based diploid crop, propagated by seeds.

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‘Native potatoes: From forgotten crop to culinary boom and market innovation’

Once neglected by urban consumers, Andean native potatoes are now essential ingredients for some of the most sophisticated gastronomy of the world, according to the authors of this article, published in Choices: The Magazine of Food, Farm, and Resource Issues. André Devaux, Guy Hareau, Miguel Ordinola, Jorge Andrade-Piedra, and Graham Thiele write, “from colored chips to delicacy vegetables and even liquors, new products are making their way into high-income market niches.”

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‘A passion for potatoes’: Pioneering Colorado potato breeder Dave Holm retires

Dave Holm was destined to work with potatoes. He was raised on a potato farm in southeast Idaho, where his dad and grandfather instilled in him a love of one of the world’s most important crops. His interest extends to the complexities of the tubers, as well as their nutritional properties. This June, Holm will retire after 43 years of service to Colorado State University’s San Luis Valley Research Center and Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.

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A unique vertical farm can produce 10 times more seed potatoes a year

Less than a year after the opening of the World-class Scientific Center “Agrotechnologies for the Future”, Russian scientists had a breakthrough: the first-ever vertical farm with dynamic LED lighting. They presented the first pre-production prototype of a vertical farm. The rapid seed reproduction facility combines state-of-the-art digital technology with organic farming techniques, and have grown healthy potato seed for further multiplication in the field.

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Sweden’s Starch Producers ready to put CRISPR to work in developing ‘new climate-smart potato varieties’

Sweden’s Starch Producers organization expressed a very positive view about this conclusion from the European Commission’s study into new genomic techniques, and of the fresh optimism that it will now potentially be possible to use the CRISPR technique. Sweden’s Starch Producers will now be able to commercialise the efforts it has made in this field within the EU. They began a drive to use the CRISPR technique to develop new, climate-smart varieties of seed potatoes in 2014. The new varieties are now being cultivated for the second year.

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’20 Most Innovative Plant Varieties of 2020′: Two potato varieties on the list

European Seed has published its list of “The 20 Most Innovative Plant Varieties of 2020” recently. Marcel Bruins, Editorial Director of European Seed writes: “Let’s face it, not many people can make reliable predictions about the future. But do you know who has to make such predictions due to their jobs? Plant breeders!”. Two varieties from European potato breeding and seed companies made the list: ‘Alouette’ from Agrico, and HZPC’s ‘Cayman’ variety.

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