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Ranger, Blazer acreage increases, Burbank decline levels off

Total seed acres approved for certification in 2009 decreased less than 1 percent from 2008, but there were some surprising changes in the Top 20 varieties. Total certified seed acreage, at 108,444, is at the 2005 level but about 14,000 fewer acres than 2004.

Russet Burbank continues to be the most-planted potato seed variety, although the variety continues its decline. This season, growers planted 23,907 acres of the variety, 2 percent fewer acres than last season. Idaho had the most acreage with 13,890 Russet Burbank acres certified, which was about 250 acres fewer than last season. Montana, with the second largest acreage, added almost 300 acres of Russet Burbank seed.

The variety planted second behind Russet Burbank has been increasing acreage since 2006. Ranger Russet acreage increased 4 percent from last season to 6,861 acres, moving it into the No. 2 spot.

The Norland varieties – Dark Red, Red and Norland Red strains – combined for the second-most acreage last season, but 2009 acreage moves the variety to third. There were 6,663 Norland acres certified in 2009, 4 percent fewer acres than last season.

The seven Russet Norkotah Selections combined for 5,951 certified seed acres this season, an increase of 6 percent from last season but still well below the five-year average.

Russet Norkotah continues to lose popularity with growers, and acreage decreased another 11 percent this season, to 4,540 acres. More than 12,400 acres of Russet Norkotah were certified in 2004, but the variety has double-digit declines every year since. Idaho was the leader in Norkotah acreage with more than 1,400 certified acres, followed by Nebraska with

Umatilla Russet certified seed acreage peaked at 4,097 acres last season, the same year it turned 10. In 2009, seed growers planted 3,490 acres of Umatillas, a 15 percent decrease from the variety’s high last year. Montana and North Dakota planted the most acreage of Umatilla Russet, totaling 2,354 acres combined.

Atlantic saw a modest increase in acreage this season, up 7 percent from last season. The 33-year-old variety is grown on less than half the acreage of 10 years ago, with Maine accounting for more than one-third of the total certified seed acreage.

Shepody saw a sharp decline in plantings this season, down 23 percent from last season. At 2,652 acres in 2009, Shepody acreage is about half what it was at the beginning of this decade and about 1,200 acres fewer than last year. North Dakota seed growers planted more than 1,200 acres of Shepody, followed by Idaho with nearly 850 acres.

Red LaSoda is another variety popular in North Dakota. Seed growers in the state planted 1,440 acres out of the total 2,424 acres. Plantings of Red LaSoda have fluctuated over the last few years, and the variety is down 14 percent from last season, but acreage was higher than 2007 and 2005.

Yukon Gold rounds out the Top 10 varieties for 2009 with 2,252 certified seed acres. Maine (737 acres) and Colorado (495 acres) planted the most Yukon Gold seed potatoes. Acreage devoted to the variety decreased 8 percent in 2009, but total acreage is only slightly lower than the five-year average.

Alturas, which was introduced in 2001, saw an increase of 12 percent over last season, which brings the variety back up to the levels seen at the beginning of this decade. Canela Russet, another new variety in only its third year, saw an increase in acreage of 9 percent. In its first year, growers planted more than 1,000 acres of Canela Russet, then more than 1,800 acres in its second year and this season seed growers planted 1,983 acres of the variety. Nearly all of the Canela Russet acreage – 1,796 acres – was in Colorado. The state actually planted about 100 fewer acres of Canela Russet this season, but 146 acres planted in Idaho and a few more in Michigan and Washington resulted in an overall increase in acreage.

Rio Grande Russet saw the largest percentage decline in acreage from last season. Last season, seed growers planted 2,800 acres of Rio Grande, but in 2009 planted 33 percent less – 1,866 acres. Colorado planted about 400 fewer acres of the variety this season and Idaho, which planted 460 acres of Rio Grande Russet last season, certified only 25 acres this year.

Blazer Russet, a new variety in 2005, saw the largest percentage increase in acreage in 2009. Seed growers planted 1,710 acres of Blazer, a 188 percent increase from the 593 acres last season. This was the first year Blazer made it into the Top 20 varieties.

Rounding out the Top 20 are Snowden, which increased 11 percent but is on par with the five-year average; Premier Russet, a variety released in 2005 that increased 3 percent this season to 1,588 certified acres; Dakota Pearl, which increased acreage by 29 percent back to 2006-2007 levels; Goldrush, which remains flat at 1,154 certified seed acres; Ranger Russet “Amisk,” a recent strain of Ranger that increased 19 percent to 1,078 acres and makes its first appearance in the Top 20; and Western Russet, which decreased acreage by 11 percent and drops below 1,000 acres for the first time since 2004.

Originally posted Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009

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