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Warmer, drier weather: Russet Burbank variety not a happy camper

The most common potato variety grown in North America is the Russet Burbank, which is mainly grown in the Pacific Northwest. But as the climate there gets warmer and drier, growing these tubers may become more difficult.

Richard Novy, a potato breeder and plant geneticist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Idaho, says to water their crops, many farmers in his state depend on mountain snowpack, which melts slowly throughout the growing season. Dr Novy told the Yale Climate Communications website that mountain snowpack was an essential resource for the cultivation of the Russet Burbank variety in Idaho. “And so if we have less snowfall up in the mountains or earlier melting of that snowpack, that can impact our irrigation going into the future,” he says.

Hot, dry weather can reduce farmers’ yields. And it can make Russet Burbank potatoes grow unattractive lumps. Novy says another risk posed by rising temperatures is that more of the potatoes’ starch content will convert to sugar. “Then when you fry that tuber,” he says, “you’ll get a very dark potato chip or a dark french fry, so not desirable by most consumers.”

To help the industry adapt, Novy and other scientists have been developing new, more resilient potato varieties, including the Blazer Russet and Clearwater Russet. Washington State University (WSU) potato researchers Rick Knowles and Mark Pavek were involved in the production of these two varieties.

These varieties are hybrids descended from the Burbank variety and were accepted for use by McDonald’s in 2016, the first new varieties the fast food giant had accepted into its supply chain since 2000.

Source: Joe Pinkstone for Mail Online. Read the full story here.
Photo: Yale Climate Connections
Climate change is making it harder to grow the potatoes traditionally used for French fries » Yale Climate Connections
Dramatic declines in snowpack in the western US | npj Climate and Atmospheric Science
Idaho potato acres dip below 300,000 for second time since 1970 |
National Trends | Temperature, Precipitation, and Drought | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)

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