March 2010
Seeding Change

Reports of the demise of the Russet Burbank may be a little premature, but there is a developing sense that the mighty variety is slowly being retired due to the rising demands for more sustainable varieties.

Phil Nolte, seed potato specialist at the University of Idaho Idaho Falls Extension office, said seed lots of Russet Burbanks, though still No. 1, dropped to 43 percent of certification last year. Ranger came in at No. 2 with 15 percent and Norkotah line selections came in third with 8 percent.

Aberdeen Agricultural Research Service researcher Rich Novy identified a number of promising varieties that offer growers options that could result in financial gain while at the same time placating those calling for more sustainable crops.

Novy said that Jacqueline Lee, developed by Dave Douches at Michigan State University has shown great promise in the fresh market.

Defender is another late-blight resistant variety that Novy said had potential. Defender was released by the Tri-State Potato Variety (PVMI) breeding program in 2004.

Novy said Defender could process directly out of the field and it has limited storage capability.

Two more late-blight resistance varieties are being researched.

“One that we have in the second year of our western regional variety trial is 9766-42 LB. Very comparable to Defender. It also has a high total U.S. #1 yield, low sugar ends,” Novy said.

“This one is, I feel, a better processor than Defender. Defender being somewhat limited in its processing ability. Very high specific gravity, early die resistance and some moderate resistance to PVY as well,” he said.

The other variety is 9766-42. Only a year into trials, Novy said that this one could be a dual purpose potato with high yield, cold sweetener resistance and very low sugar ends.

On the specialty spectrum Novy was impressed with Yukon Gem. Released by the Tri-State breeding program in 2006, Yukon Gem has shown moderate resistance to foliar late blight and tuber late blight resistance. It’s also a much better processing potato than Yukon Gold, Novy said.

He said work identifying verticillium-resistant varieties has been conducted by Shelley Jansky, and some of those resistant varieties include Megachip out of Wisconsin, Dakota Trailblazer, just released this year out of North Dakota, and the Mesa Russet out of Colorado.

Two varieties that show good yields under water stress were the Gem Star Russet and the Alta Crown.

Research by Jeff Stark and Peggy Bain at the Aberdeen research station showed the Gem Star’s yield at 100 percent irrigation to be 361 cwt. per acre. When irrigation was reduced by one-third the Gem Star’s yield decreased by only 10 percent and when the water was reduced by another one-third the Gem Star’s yield decreased by only 17 percent.

Finally, Novy presented the findings by Jeff Stark on varieties requiring less nitrogen inputs. Stark set out to see how much nitrogen input was necessary to get a 400 cwt. per acre yield.

“Burbank and Alpine are very similar,” Novy said, “except you’re getting a higher yield with Alpine. What gives both maximum yield is about 270 pounds of nitrogen per acre, if you’re looking at maximum yield. But if you’re just looking at getting 400 cwt. per acre yield, then you look at Alpine. You can get 400 cwt. per acre yield just by using 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre versus Russet Burbank at 240,” he said.

Alpine requires about 25 percent of the nitrogen input than that of Russet Burbank, Novy said.

Comparing nitrogen use of other varieties against Russet Burbank’s nitrogen use, Novy said that both Alturas and Premier Russets use less than 20 percent of the nitrogen that Russet Burbanks use.

As pesticide, insecticide and herbicide registration requirements tighten, water rights become even more disputatious and calls for more sustainable agriculture and traceability paper work mounts growers will have to make their decisions whether the heavy carbon footprint of the Russet Burbank continues to be diminished by a sufficient return on investment.

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P.O. Box 128
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