Oct 27, 2023
MSU Potato Outreach Program harvesting underway in Montcalm County

Michigan State University’s Potato Outreach Program has been hard at work throughout Montcalm County harvesting the 2023 potato trials.

Montcalm County produces the most potatoes of any county in the state of Michigan. The primary market outlet for these potatoes is for the potato chipping industry.

Michigan State University has a long-standing partnership with top potato producers in this region to utilize field space to develop and test new varieties.

The MSU potato outreach team harvesting potato variety trials in Montcalm County, Michigan. Photo by Steve Whittington, MSU Extension.

Annually, trial harvests take place across the state and are a part of a larger program with the National Chipping Program with Potatoes USA. This program is a collaboration between growers, processors and researchers across the U.S. which seeks to improve potato variety development. The desired end goal of this program is to deliver high-quality potato varieties to further develop the potato market with both table stock and chipping varieties.

Dave Douches is the potato breeder from Michigan State University who has submitted variety entries this year. There are also variety entries in the program from University of Maine and Cornell University. Potato breeders enter varietal candidates into the program based on criteria that are specific to each candidate. In this instance, varietals are chosen based on which would perform the best for the potato chipping industry.

High-performing varieties are chosen based on numerous criteria that include but are not limited to: racquetball to tennis ball size, round shape, skin that can be mechanically peeled, 400 cwt/acre yield, 1 ⅞ to 3 ¼ diameter target size in harvest with few oversized or undersized potatoes, and specific gravity above 1.080. Additionally, top-performing varieties will have few internal defects such as hollow heart, internal brown spot, vascular discoloration and brown center. Low chip defects such as greening, sugar browning and bruising are also ideal characteristics with disease resistance to common scab.

Harvest bins full of tagged bags denoting specific variety, trial and storage demonstration. Photo by Steve Whittington, MSU Extension.

The Potato Outreach Program is the team that oversees planting and harvesting of the trial potatoes across Michigan. The Potato Outreach Program is a collaboration between Michigan State University and the Michigan Potato Industry Commission. This innovative program supports the potato industry by conducting on-farm research and storage demonstration trials. Storage demonstration trials are conducted annually at the Montcalm Research Center.

Chris Long is a potato specialist with Michigan State University Extension who leads the planting and harvesting of the trials in Montcalm County and across Michigan. Each year, this incredible program conducts over 40 on-farm variety trials in Michigan, participates with partner states in national trials, conducts potato storage demonstrations, and compiles all of this work in an annual Michigan Potato Research Report.

This industry-leading research has been conducted by Michigan State University at the Montcalm Research Center for over 50 years and continues to grow and evolve each year. Field crop educators like Steve Whittington in Montcalm County connect local Michigan State University Extension efforts with other programs like the Potato Outreach Program and Michigan Potato Industry Commission to national trialing efforts with Potatoes USA and the National Chip Program.

— Steve Whittington, Michigan State University Extension

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P.O. Box 128
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