Strong Commission Research Program Continues in 2015 

February 25, 2015

Research remains the backbone of its competitiveness as the Michigan potato industry seeks to retain and expand its markets. The Michigan Potato Industry Commission has budgeted nearly $164,000 for 2015 to maintain its strong commitment to vital research.

Variety development continues as a critical need to meet the demands of the industry’s customers as they compete in their own markets. Soil health for optimal productivity is being intensively supported as researchers study contributing factors including the roles of cover crops. Pest control is also a major priority, particularly the effort to contain outbreaks of the late-blight pathogen.

A successful example of variety development from Michigan State University’s Potato Breeding and Genetics Program is the new commercial chip-processing variety Manistee. It matures early to mid-season, maintains processing quality in long-term storage and is low in internal defects. Manistee has similar characteristics to Snowden, one of its parents, in its average specific gravity and susceptibility to common scab but has better yield potential and more tolerance to blackspot bruising than Snowden.

As usual, more than 25 variety trials are scheduled this year with cooperating growers for further evaluation of promising chip-processing and tablestock varieties. Three new russet varieties with strong commercial potential will undergo large-scale commercial trials.

Also in the trial mix will be testing of the J.R. Simplot Company’s Innate™ potatoes under Michigan conditions to determine their commercial feasibility in the state. The Innate lines, developed in Idaho by the company’s Plant Sciences Division, are the product of precise biotech gene management to achieve commercial objectives. The Generation 1 Innate potatoes, which have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), contain low asparagine levels to reduce the formation of acrylamide, a compound of controversial risk potential created when carbohydrates are subjected to intense heat. In addition, this line can minimize waste in handling through its resistance to black-spot bruising. The Innate Generation 2, currently under USDA review, adds the breakthrough trait of resistance to late blight and hence holds the potential of greatly reduced pesticide use against the devastating disease.

Meanwhile the Commission continues to fund research to control late blight with currently available chemical technology. Another pest-related project funded for 2015 is a study of aphid migration in a potato-production region.

Fertility is both a chemical and biological priority funding issue for the Commission. Phosphorus fertilizer guidelines in potato production systems are being re-evaluated.

Soil fertility as affected by cover crops is receiving broad-based research attention. Diverse crops are being studied for their immediate impacts and also for assessing their optimal plantings in rotational cropping systems. Researchers will also identify optimal minimum fallow periods within a potato-production rotation. Changes in soil microbial community populations and diversity are being researched as cropping practices are altered.

Variety screening on oats and millet as cover crops is being funded. The goal is to determine those varieties that accumulate the greatest amounts of biomass both above ground and below ground. Another search is for millet varieties with the best tolerance to cold temperatures. 

The Weekly Potato Report