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Posted by WPVGA | In the News | News | Tater Talk

Tater Talk – September 19, 2014

Tater Talk - September 19, 2014

Tater Talk – September 19, 2014

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Posted by WPVGA | In the News | News

What makes a great potato? – The science of breeding for the future

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Go to your supermarket these days and you will see an emerging trend in the fruit and vegetable section – an increasing array of varieties on display that are specifically designed to meet consumer demands. Apples lead the way with dozens of different varieties on display with specific tastes, textures and uses. Other food favorites are jumping on the apple bandwagon with potatoes now joining the chase.  Five years ago your potato choices were likely to be limited to russets, round whites and reds, served up in small or large bags with cost often being the a prime driver.  Now, potato choices have rapidly changed as new varieties with multiple colors, shapes and sizes are part of the consumer’s palate.  Today’s consumers are looking for specific varieties based on how they taste and whether they are using them for fries, chips, baked, mashed or salads.

The evolution of choice in potatoes is moving fast now but it has taken generations of painstaking and exacting science to get to where we are today.  Over the coming weeks, the New Family Farm site will explore the art and science of breeding potatoes through the work of graduate students.  Since the beginning of agriculture, humans have been identifying, creating and refining new varieties of food plants for their productivity, appearance and culinary characteristics.  This process, known as plant breeding, continues to help improve potatoes to meet the evolving needs of society by bringing together the skills of several disciplines such as genetics, molecular biology, plant pathology, engineering and others.

The first step in plant breeding is to create individuals with novel genetics that may express the traits we are seeking.  Just as humans create children by combining their genetic makeups, potatoes can be enhanced through genetics. Most new potato varieties are created by “mating” or cross pollinating existing varieties with other varieties, or ancestors, with the goal of combining the best characteristics of the parents to create a new potato that has the features we desire.  Those green, tomato-like fruits, formed on pollinated potato plants contain hundreds of seeds, each one genetically distinct. It takes the artistry of the breeders to grow these thousands upon thousands of seeds in the greenhouse, identify the traits they express, select the most promising, re-cross to obtain the best balance and ultimately propagate them in the field. It can take years to develop a promising new potential variety.

The story doesn’t stop there.  To be released as a new variety with a chance to become a commercial success, these promising breeding lines must not only meet all the exacting standards required for multiple end uses but they must also be evaluated in larger areas, under all potential growing conditions and compared with existing varieties in other production areas across the US. This is the realm of the variety developer who works closely with breeders and growers to pare all of the potential varieties into the few new varieties that can compete in the world market place.

This long and expensive process now has the potential of being shortened dramatically, however, as advances in biotechnology open up new possibilities to alter the genetics of potatoes. Whereas pollination results in large genetic changes through reshuffling of chromosomes, laboratory techniques now exist to insert, delete or modify genes that confer specific desirable qualities. Identifying genes which confer good and bad traits and determining how best to refine them is an active area of research in both the public and private sectors.  For potatoes, genes that affect disease resistance, bruising and fry color are all being targeted. Genes that may impact fertilizer needs or drought tolerances promise great benefits for the future.  Although biotechnology can greatly speed the process of creating variants with specific characteristics, it is important to remember that these plants must also undergo years of selection and testing to determine whether they meet the high standards required for new commercial varieties.

The science of potato breeding and variety development continues to flourish in Wisconsin with laboratories at UW- Madison and experiment stations at Hancock and Rhinelander all working to develop potato varieties that meet the needs of consumers and society.  For more information visit http://potatobreeding.cals.wisc.edu  and https://twitter.com/Potatobreed.

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Posted by WPVGA | Crop Updates | In the News | News

Vegetable Crop Update #22

Vegetable Crop Update #22

Vegetable Crop Update #22

Read full update.

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Posted by WPVGA | Tater Talk

Tater Talk – September 12, 2014

Tater Talk - September 12, 2014

Tater Talk – September 12, 2014

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Posted by WPVGA | In the News | News

Investing in the Future: Potato Research in Wisconsin Pays Big Dividends

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For any progressive business, it is common knowledge that investment in research and development will increase its efficiency or broaden its portfolio. This principal applies to agriculture as well and nowhere is this better exemplified than by Wisconsin’s potato growers. These hardworking growers are known across the United States for their innovations in production, resource conservation and sustainability. These achievements did not occur by happenstance; they required a vision and an investment from the industry to achieve that vision. Recognizing this, every Wisconsin potato grower voluntarily pays 6 cents to their association for every 100 pounds of potatoes produced annually. This is no paltry sum, as Wisconsin is the 3rd largest potato-producing state in the US with close to 28 million 100 pound sacks grown during 2013!

A large portion of this money is invested back into the University of Wisconsin to provide scientists from multiple disciplines the dollars needed to fund research in all areas impacting potatoes. Over 25 projects are funded annually – ranging from short-term, innovative problem solving to long-term, basic science- for a total of over $350,000 each year. The initial association investment of $10-20,000 in funds to individual projects pays big dividends to the growers, the industry and the state, as UW researchers are able to use this funding to leverage additional federal funding sources back to Wisconsin by over 100 fold! In 2014 this translated into over $30 million return on a $350,000 investment!

The dedication and excellence of faculty, academic staff and graduate students across multiple academic disciplines generates remarkable results. To give readers a glimpse into some of the fascinating individual stories being generated in labs and field stations across Wisconsin, the New Family Farm postings over the next several months will feature ongoing research being conducted by graduate students. These will address important topic areas that include Potato Breeding, Seed Production, Growing Potatoes, Protecting Natural Resources and Managing Pests. Each topic will be introduced by faculty experts in the field and followed by specific graduate student research projects. We hope you enjoy these glimpses into the stories that are evolving in one of the nation’s premier potato research programs.  

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Posted by WPVGA | Crop Updates | In the News | News

Vegetable Crop Update #21

Vegetable Crop Update #21

Vegetable Crop Update #21

Read full update.

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Posted by WPVGA | In the News | News | Tater Talk

Tater Talk – September 5, 2014

Tater Talk - September 5, 2014

Tater Talk – September 5, 2014

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Posted by WPVGA | In the News | News | What's Cookin

September 2014 What’s Cookin’

September 2014 What's Cookin'These recipes were featured on recipe tearpads in the “Wisconsin Potato Varieties” display in the new Wisconsin Spudmobile. You can find them featured in our September 2014 What’s Cookin’ column.

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Posted by WPVGA | Badger Common'Tater Interviews | In the News | News

Interview with Mike Gatz

September 2014 Interview with Mike GatzWhen the Spudmobile was launched on August 12, 2014 at Farm Technology Days in Stevens Point, no one was happier or more proud than Michael Gatz.

Gatz has served as Chairman of the WPVGA Promotions Committee for the past three years, during which time he has worked diligently to shepherd the Spudmobile project to completion.

Gatz has worked for Bushmans’, Inc. since 2009. Headquartered in Rosholt, Wisconsin, Bushmans’, Inc. is a large grower and marketer of potatoes, onions and other vegetables. As Director of Business Development, Gatz’s primary role with the company is to support the growth of existing accounts, as well as develop new avenues of growth for the company. On the creative side, he assists in the development of new packaging and marketing strategies.

Read more of our September 2014 interview with Mike Gatz.

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Posted by WPVGA | Badger Common'Tater Feature Stories | In the News | News

In the September 2014 Badger Common’Tater

Wisconsin Spudmobile Hits the Road
This is one hot potato!

Spudmobile Ribbon Cutting

The Wisconsin Spudmobile is on the road. This mobile education unit developed by the Wisconsin Potato &Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) made its debut appearance at Farm Technology Days in Stevens Point, August 12-14.

A press conference and ribbon cutting ceremony was held on August 13 at the WPVGA booth. All eyes were on this amazing new information and educational tool.

“This is a traveling billboard that is actually functional,” says WPVGA Director of Promotions Dana Rady. “It contains eight exhibits that will educate visitors about the quality work Wisconsin growers do, including how they conserve Mother Nature’s resources, utilize the most up-to-date technologies and provide quality and affordable food for families on a daily basis.”

For the complete story, see the September 2014 issue of The Badger Common’Tater.

Dan and Sheila RineDan and Sheila Rine of Rine Ridge Farms, Antigo, prove that the Potato Touch Table is not just for kids.

Nick SomersNick Somers is interviewed inside the Spudmobile by Haley Tenpas of Channel 12 News.  The Spudmobile received excellent media coverage throughout Farm Techology Days.

Hancock Field Day
July 22, 2014
UW Hancock Agricultural Research Station

Aerial Photo at HARSThis aerial photo of the wagons at the Hancock Field Day was taken from the quadcopter flown by Andy Ciurro, an undergraduate working with Dr. Shelley Jansky.

DroneA special feature at this year’s Hancock Field Day was the demonstration of UAV’s or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, commonly referred to as “drones.” Using drones for crop surveillance can help increase yields and improve crop quality, while minimizing the cost of walking the fields or having an airplane do fly-over imaging.

Drone FlyingA drone hovers over a potato field. This low-altitude view (from a few feet above the plants to around 360 feet, which is the regulatory ceiling in the United States for unmanned aircraft operating without special clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration) gives a perspective that farmers have rarely had before. Compared with satellite imagery, it’s much cheaper and offers higher resolution. Because it’s taken under the clouds, it’s unobstructed and available anytime. It’s also much cheaper than crop imaging with a manned aircraft.  For more from this year’s Hancock Field Day, read the September 2014 edition of The Badger Common’Tater.

Looking Ahead: How Biotechnology May Change Potato Storage
By Amy Wiberley-Bradford, Xiaobiao Zhu, Jiming Jiang, Paul C. Bethke

We have been growing, harvesting, storing and characterizing tubers from transgenic potato plants for the past four years. These plants have low expression of the vacuolar invertase gene and were produced for research purposes by Jiming Jiang’s group at UW-Madison. We’ve analyzed sugars from over 2500 individual tubers; fried almost 6000 chips and a few hundred fresh-cut strips; scored fried samples for color, defects, and acrylamide content; conducted enzyme assays; and measured changes in gene expression.

Along the way, we’ve been listening to and participating in larger and deeper discussions about the value of genetically modified potato to the local and national potato industries. So what have we learned? How might this technology help us in the next five to ten years? If we look beyond the molecular details and the caveats that are inherent to small plot research trials, and focus instead on the big picture, what is the most important take-home message that we’d like to share with those who store potatoes? It is this: biotechnology isn’t a magic wand that makes all problems go away, but it is likely to improve the quality of potatoes coming out of storage. Some of the potential benefits and limitations associated with using genetic modification to improve the quality of stored potatoes are illustrated using resistance to cold-induced sweetening, reduction in post-fry color defects and acrylamide content, and reduction in black spot bruise as examples.

For more, check out the September Badger Common’Tater.

Dr. Paul BethkeDr. Paul Bethke is pictured at the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Storage Research Facility in Hancock.

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