One is a potato that not only stands out on the plate but is a nutritional stand-out. It’s dark pink flesh and red skin is rich in antioxidants. Another could be a French fry lover’s dream, allowing farmers to increase yields of the type of potato used by fry processors by as much as 35 per cent when compared with the industry stalwart Russet Burbank. They are among 16 new potato selections that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s potato breeding team is releasing to industry this year to test for itself and see what it thinks.
The selections were narrowed down from more than 120,000 hybrid seedlings that were grown and tested and measured over six years in AAFC greenhouses, laboratories and fields across the country. The selections are the result of continuing technological advances that are allowing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers to probe the complicated DNA of potatoes to identify genes and strands of DNA linked to traits of interest, leading to germplasm with better yields, nutrition and cooking and processing qualities. The selections also feature disease and pest resistance that make them less demanding on the environment. With each genetic marker that is identified, researchers are able to more quickly and accurately search through hundreds of different kinds of potatoes, including centuries-old heritage varieties and wild species, for potential breeding candidates that will produce new hybrids with the desired traits.