The University of Maine’s Agricultural Research and Development Farm is a significant contributor to potato research and development, testing around 250 varieties each year during peak harvest season, as Hannah Yechivi reports in a story written for News Center Maine.
Led by UMaine agronomy professor Greg Porter, the team aims to find improved potato varieties that yield well, show pest and disease tolerance, and are suitable for changing climate conditions. The successful Caribou Russet is a product of this research.
Maine is the fifth largest potato producer in the U.S., and the industry is a major revenue source for the state, with 2021 sales exceeding $200 million. Consequently, the UMaine potato research team receives significant federal funding and support from other public sector grants. After initial cross-pollination in greenhouses in Orono, 50,000 plants are grown in Presque Isle from the resulting seeds. The best 250 are then selected over two years, with roughly a third eventually making the cut for commercial trials.
The research is crucial to meeting the growing demand for Maine potatoes, and its findings contribute significantly to keeping family farms operational and generating state revenue. After dedicating 40 years to the development of quality potatoes, Porter is set to retire by the end of the year.