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Published October 03, 2011, 07:48 PM

New potato clone touted at a potential boon for Red River Valley

FARGO, N.D. — Will a newly discovered russet potato variety make the Red River Valley a yield contender with the Pacific Northwest?

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Will a newly discovered russet potato variety make the Red River Valley a yield contender with the Pacific Northwest?

Carl Hoverson of Larimore, N.D., thinks so, and — as one of the key growers for the Simplot-processed potato plant in Grand Forks, N.D. — he’s one of the folks who should know best.

Hoverson Farms hosts some of the test plots that include trials by Dr. Asunta “Susie” Thompson, a potato breeder at North Dakota State University in Fargo. This year, one of Thompson’s new crosses, a variety called 4405-1 Russet had an “incredible” yield of 777 hundredweights per acre.

Hoverson was so impressed with it that he put out his own press release about it.

“There were about nine very nice, uniformly-shaped (potatoes under each hill) with light russeting tubers under each plant,” Hoverson says.

Each of the potatoes weighed about a pound, and were perfectly shaped.

The “incredible” news was that the clone was planted later than normal, on May 24. Still, it bulked up to the 777 per hundredweights per acre by the harvest date of Sept. 17. Other Russet Burbank varieties in the same row were yielding 300 bags.

Encouraging signs

Hoverson says the selection has to go through many tests for processing quality, including solids, but the signs look good. Both parents have good processing quality and the potato “felt like a Shepody,” he says.

“It typically takes 400 (per hundredweight) of potatoes per acre on irrigation in North Dakota and Minnesota to cover input costs, so this would be great news for our potato farmers,” Hoverson says.

The region is closer to eastern food markets and so has a transportation advantage to the PNW producers, but this could be something special, he says.

“If this variety does all of the qualities the processing industry wants” it will “rival the major potato producing area of the Pacific Northwest, including Washington, Oregon and Idaho.”

Potential potato powerhouse

It could “again make the Red River Valley the major supplier of potatoes in the United States and world markets,” Hoverson says. “Lower costs per acre combined with impressive yields will make the Red River Valley a powerhouse in potato production.”

The Northern Plains Potato Growers Association thanked Thompson and her crew at NDSU for a “job well done.”

Thompson says the yield potential rivals the Columbia Basin on the clone selected in the Red River Valley.

“It’s very early of course in that clone stage, but we do have other beautiful dual-purpose russets in our pipeline,” Thompson says. “In fact, one hopefully to be released this fall or winter, that has excellent yield potential.”

She says one in trials at Inkster, N.D., and harvested Sept. 26, had a yield of 522 hundredweights per acre on a short dry season, planted on June 2. “It’s fun working with growers that are so excited about what’s happening with the breeding program,” Thompson says.

Hoverson says he’s already decided to invest several thousand dollars in the meristem and minituber work to “blow up” the seedstock on the prospects that it will be a winner.