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

Tater Talk – October 17, 2014

Tater Talk - October 17, 2014

Tater Talk – October 17, 2014

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Posted by WPVGA | In the News | News

Why would you want to X-ray a potato?

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When you think about how to use new advances in X-ray technology, potato breeding is probably not the first thing that springs to mind. However, scientific researchers at the University of Wisconsin are doing just that to help develop new potato varieties — and to do it faster!  State-of-the art, high- speed X-ray technology is now becoming a routine practice for evaluating potential new potato varieties, because it is faster and much more effective.  Do you remember your last X-ray at the doctor office? It was time-consuming, uncomfortable and expensive.  Not so with potatoes! Every day during harvest, tens of thousands of potatoes are examined in just milliseconds, at virtually no cost!

This technology is possible by incorporating a high speed X-ray imager into the potato-grading line (where potatoes are evaluated after harvest).  This imager takes an X-ray image of each tuber as it passes through the machine at a high rate of speed.  From that image,  computers calculate just about anything that you ever wanted to know about that tuber, including its weight, length, width, height and shape; most remarkably, it can determine if there are defects on the outside and even the inside of the tuber. This is a huge improvement on previous technology in both speed and expense, which is akin to doctors being able to take the X-rays they need as you drive past the clinic!  

But why would potato breeders need this level of sophistication?  Will it contribute to developing a better spud that can be stored at lower temperatures to avoid sprouting and breakdown, resist disease or tolerate drought? The answer is a resounding yes!  In the complex and protracted science of developing new varieties, many thousands of crosses (plant breeding that deliberately interbreeds desirable properties) must be whittled down to a select few that possess the characteristics that will satisfy the needs of consumers.  By improving the speed and accuracy of the grading process, we are now able to identify potential varieties quicker and more efficiently than ever before.

In my research, I am seeking to pinpoint the location of specific genes that allow a potato to be stored at low temperatures. This is a highly desirable trait as tubers that are stored below typical refrigerator temperatures accumulate sugars. This is unacceptable to consumers and food processors alike since the tubers taste overly sweet and also turn dark brown when made into chips or French fries.  However, if we could store potatoes at lower temperatures and avoid these problems, then we could extend the availability of high quality tubers to provide a year-round supply and avoid the equally unacceptable results of higher temperature storage — the nasty wrinkling, sprouting and rotting that we have all seen in our pantries.  To find spuds that have the traits that allow them to be stored at lower temperatures, I have crossed potatoes with varying responses to temperature and created a series of unique lines for which I am developing DNA profiles.  With these, I can identify where the desired genes are located that will allow researchers to speed up the development of potential new varieties.

High-speed X-ray imaging may seem overly technical for a mere potato, but it is now an essential step to evaluate multiple tuber characteristics of these new lines rapidly and accurately. This helps me to determine if the lines that carry the cold storage gene will be acceptable as new varieties — to the processors that make the chips and fries and to the consumers that enjoy them.

For more information contact Kyle Rak at: krak@wisc.edu. Kyle is the 2014-15 recipient of the Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship awarded annually by the Wisconsin Potato Industry Board.  

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

Tater Talk – October 10, 2014

Tater Talk - October 10, 2014

Tater Talk – October 10, 2014

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

October 2014 What’s Cookin’

October 2014 What's Cookin'The potato harvest season is upon us which makes it the perfect time to try one of these recipes with some freshly-dug Wisconsin potatoes. Welcome fall with these potato dishes as featured in our October 2014 What’s Cookin’ column.

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

Interview with Rod Beggs

Interview with Rod BeggsMidwestern Farms was established by a group of central Wisconsin potato growers back in 1977. Formerly owned by Godfrey Erickson, the operation was primarily a packing shed for growers/shareholders such as Fred Reid, L.P. Johnson, Bob and Jim Johnson, Howard Williams, Larry and Randy Bacon, Gayle Bacon and Jay Erickson, as well as some others over the years. Bob Berard of Paramount Farms has been a primary owner along with Denzel Beggs, who served as the Plant Manager for over 35 years.

In October of 2013, Denzel’s son, Rod, along with Bob Berard, bought out the ownership group which at that time consisted of Denzel and Dave Beggs, Jay Erickson and Berard. In July of this year, Bob and Rod sold one-third of the operation to Bushmans’, Inc., headquartered in Rosholt.

Read more of our October 2014 interview with Rod Beggs.

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

Tater Talk – October 3, 2014

Tater Talk - October 3, 2014

Tater Talk – October 3, 2014

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

Vegetable Crop Update #23

Vegetable Crop Update #23

Vegetable Crop Update #23

Read full update.

 

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

Tater Talk – September 26, 2014

Tater Talk - September 26, 2014

Tater Talk – September 26, 2014

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Posted by WPVGA | In the News | News

Student Blog Series – What makes a potato beautiful?

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Today’s potatoes suffer from lowered self-esteem due to constant bombardment from the media’s perception of the “ideal potato.”  This phenomenon first emerged in 1952 with the debut of Mr. Potato Head.  Here was the plastic representation of what a potato was supposed to look like — only two eyes, smooth, unblemished skin and that perfect oblong shape that was designed to be baked and filled with goodies. No mention of the myriad of nasty diseases that are likely to attack a real potato during its life. In recent years, this popularized image has only gained traction due to Mr. Potato Head’s breakout role in the box office hit “Toy Story.” This media exposure is sending a message to our potato youth that in order to be beautiful they should ignore life’s realities and emulate a plastic toy.

But help is on the way! Scientists in the University of Wisconsin potato breeding programs are working hard to help young tubers grow-up in the field to reach the size, shape and taste that consumers want, without succumbing to all those nasty diseases. In our lab, we are employing advanced techniques that enable potato varieties (already accepted in the marketplace) to have all the qualities that consumers want and resist infection from diseases without the need for grower intervention. In my project, I am working with one of the most widespread and destructive diseases of potatoes, aptly named early dying. This disease is caused by a fungus called Verticillium that attacks through the roots and clogs the plant stems causing them to wilt and die prematurely. The fungus persists in soil for multiple years and growers have few options other than fumigation or extending the time between potatoes to multiple years, which are both hard on the pocketbook!

My lab has identified several wild potato plants (the ancestors of modern varieties, which originated in South America) and developed resistance to Verticillium naturally. I am working to tease apart the genetic material of the resistant plants and identify the specific genes that make them able to avoid the disease. I am then using advanced molecular techniques to introduce the resistance genes into modern potato varieties to produce a new variety that retains all the desirable features but will not succumb to this destructive disease. This work has been ongoing for many years and has included the foreign exploration needed to locate wild potatoes that are housed in the International Potato Germplasm Collection in Door County, Wisconisin; and the research laboratories, greenhouses and field stations in Madison, Hancock and Rhinelander.

This is a complex process, and our lab is working on a wide array of naturally occurring disease resistance and storage characteristics that will allow the potatoes of tomorrow to be comfortable in their own skins and have true beauty without resorting to the stereotypes of toys!

For more information contact Austin Meyer at: www.haltermanlab.com  

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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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