Itâ€™s that time of year in Aberdeen when the pungent aroma of deep-fried french fries wafts through the hallways of the Marshall building on the campus of the University of Idahoâ€™s Aberdeen Research & Extension Center, Bill Schaefer reports for Farm & Ranch.
For about three weeks, eight hours a day, with the clock-work like efficiency of a quick-service restaurant, in the basement of the building, three men go about their business making french fries.
Ian Fullmer starts the process by washing Russet Palisade potatoes and then cutting the spuds into thick-cut french fries. Brian Schneider then drops the french fries into the deep fryer, pulling the wire basked out at the sound of the timer and subjectively grades the fries on a scale of one to four for their color. Finally, Jae Park using a coloring meter measures the reflectance value of each of the fries for a quantitative reading for their light versus dark values.
An estimated 60 percent of U.S. potatoes are grown for the processed frozen market, which is a dominant player in the potato industry. That market segment includes french fries, potato chips and dehydrated products, with 30 percent destined for the french fry market.
Researchers are constantly seeking new means to not only improve the quality of process potatoes but also to reduce the number of inputs used in cultivation and storage of these tubers.
Research scientists Rich Novy and Jonathan Whitworth are overseeing these fry trials. Novy is a research geneticist specializing in potatoes and Whitworth is a potato plant pathologist for the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Aberdeen.
According to Novy the trials purpose is to not only isolate potatoes with cold sweetening resistance qualities and but to develop potatoes with better profiles for the process industry.
With the European Union banning the use of sprout inhibitor chlorpropham (CIPC) beginning January 1, 2020, there is an increasing demand for cold sweetening resistance varieties within the potato industry globally.
Jae Parkâ€™s research project is to find the gene location associated with a certain genotype or traits related to french fry color and other genotypes related to disease or tuber profiles.