CORVALLIS - After 10 years of field trials and tests in Oregon and other Pacific Northwest states, a new potato variety - with great potential for processing and the fresh market - is almost ready for release.
Currently known as C0083008-1, this new potato outperforms the leading industry champion, Russet Burbank, on several fronts, according to Al Mosley, potato specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.
The temporary name may be awkward, but the potato has a lot of other things going for it, experts say.
"It has more starch and less sugar and produces higher yields of top quality potatoes," said Mosley, associate professor of crop science at OSU. "It has excellent characteristics for fresh, unprocessed market uses when grown in short-season areas such as central Oregon and eastern Idaho.
"C0083008-1 is excellent for processing into French fries and other products because it has a high starch and low sugar content," explained Mosley, "Higher starch means crisper, less oily fried products. And that's what the public and processors prefer. Potatoes with a higher sugar contact turn dark when cooked as fries and sometimes have off flavors, making them less desirable."
The new potato also may be highly desirable for baking and other fresh market uses if grown in a short-season area, he said. In cooler areas such as eastern Idaho, central Oregon and the Klamath Basin, C0083008-1 tubers develop into a longer, thinner shape, which is highly desirable for the fresh market.
"It has the best baked flavor I've ever tasted," said Mosley.
When grown in the milder Columbia Basin, the potato is larger, rounder, and less attractive for fresh market uses than Russet Burbank, the current leading russet variety, he said.
But its uniform-sized, smoothly-shaped tubers are a potato processor's dream because of high starch, low sugar and more usable product per potato.
C0083008-1 was originally bred in Colorado, but was selected for further development at a very early stage more than a decade ago by Oregon potato workers. It has undergone a series of rigorous trials for the last decade.
Only a few potato selections out of hundreds of thousands make it this far in the game, Mosley said. Most are thrown out by breeders for reasons including disease susceptibility, hollow heart, low yield, poor processing characteristics and non-uniform growth.
"We'll name it here at OSU and release it to growers in cooperation with other state agricultural experiment stations in Washington, Idaho and Colorado before the year's out," said Mosley.
A fair amount of seed is available from producers in Oregon, Idaho and Colorado. "We'll have 10,000 disease-free minitubers coming out of the greenhouse to allocate free to Oregon seed growers for further increase in 1996," Mosley said.
Mosley, and OSU colleagues Ken Rykbost, Klamath Experiment Station; Dan Hane, Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center; Chuck Stanger, Malheur Experiment Station,; and Steve James, Central Oregon Agricultural Research Center; are "cautiously optimistic" about the future of C0083008-1.
"There's never a guarantee in this business, but we think it has a lot of potential," Mosley said. "It will definitely make some people some money."