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How the most popular potato in the US reached its status

Carrie Huffman Wohleb writes in an article for Growing Produce that although it wasn’t an immediate success, the ‘Russet Burbank’ cultivar now accounts for about 40% of the U.S. potato acreage. It originates from a seed collected from an ‘Early Rose’ potato plant that Luther Burbank planted in 1872. Many decades later, a natural genetic mutant (a chimera) of the original Burbank with russet skin became the Russet Burbank we know today.

‘Russet Burbank’ is a dual-purpose potato — suitable for both fresh and processing markets — and widely accepted by consumers. You can store it for many months before use, which allows for year-round distribution and processing. This may be the strongest attribute of ‘Russet Burbank’ and is one that few other russet-type cultivars have been able to match.

‘Russet Burbank’ is prone to tuber defects when grown under stressful conditions. This includes internal defects like brown spot and hollow heart, and external defects like knobs and pointed ends. It is also susceptible to several potato diseases, such as Verticillium wilt and tuber rot diseases.

Growers and processors understand these weaknesses and have strategies to manage many of them. New potato cultivars do not come with a management handbook. We learn a lot about new cultivars in their development phase, but unforeseen challenges often arise when they are planted commercially on larger acreages and in new environments. In order to succeed, a new cultivar needs to have some exceptional attributes so that growers are willing to accept the risk of facing some unknowns.

Source: Growing Produce. Read the full article here
Photo: Potato breeder Rich Novy (background) and retired plant pathologist Dennis Corsini are harvesting tubers of experimental potato selections.? Photo by Peggy Greb, USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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