Tri-state collaboration boosts production of the #1 vegetable in the U.S.

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In Oregon, farmers sold $173 million of potatoes in 2009, making them the state’s sixth-largest crop.
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Potato varieties developed by tri-state research are valued at more than $500 million

In partnership with the USDA and universities in Idaho and Washington, OSU is developing new varieties of potatoes that meet the needs of growers, processors, retailers and consumers. The program aims to produce potatoes that resist pests and diseases, are attractive, have higher yields, are more nutritious, and handle processing better. So far that effort has resulted in the release of more than 30 new varieties.

About a third of Oregon's potato acreage is planted with varieties jointly developed by OSU and its collaborators. One of them is Alturas, which produces yields similar to or greater than the most commonly grown cultivar, Russet Burbank, while using 50 percent less nitrogen. Alturas grew on more than 18,000 acres in Idaho, Oregon and Washington in 2009, potentially reducing the amount of nitrogen applied to the soil by 2.7 million pounds compared with the same acreage planted with Russet Burbank. The potential economic savings to Northwest growers was more than $1.1 million or $60 per acre in 2009.

In addition, nearly all potato varieties released by the tri-state program over the past eight years require 10 to 50 percent less nitrogen fertilizer to produce yields similar to Russet Burbank. Water requirements for GemStar Russet and Premier Russet, two other tri-state varieties, are 10 percent to 25 percent lower than those for the standard varieties, Russet Burbank and Russet Norkotah. Umatilla Russet, another tri-state potato, is one of only four varieties served by the world’s largest fast food chain of restaurants. It is the fifth most widely certified seed potato in the United States with regard to acres certified.

Potatoes are the third-most-consumed food crop in the world after rice and wheat. Varieties recently released by the tri-state program are produced on more than 140,000 acres in the Northwest, with value to growers estimated at about $505 million. In Oregon, farmers sold $165 million of potatoes in 2011, making them the state’s sixth-largest crop. Sales of processed potatoes from the tri-state program total at least $300 million a year in Oregon.

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization; OSU Extension Service; Potato Variety Management Institute; Brian Charlton, OSU Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center; Rick Knowles, Washington State University; Mark Pavek, Washington State University; Jeff Stark, University of Idaho.

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