Hard Choices and Hard Facts on Chip Varieties
Despite many hurdles, a huge effort is underway to find a better chipping potato
By Charlie Higgins, chip variety development, Potatoes USA
Finding a better chip variety amounts to clearing about 100 hurdles. Wisconsin potato growers desperately need a variety better than Lamoka because of its propensity to rot in storage.
Lamoka chips beautifully in June after a long winter of storage, but how can growers get it to store until June?
Jeff Endelman, an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Horticulture, who leads the potato variety development program, and 11 breeders from other universities are examining about 1,000 crosses every year to try to find something better than Lamoka.
A lot of dollars are at stake. Nationwide, an estimated $10 million is lost to diseases in chip potato storages every year.
The first hurdle a new selection must jump over is chip defects. Consumers want perfect chips with no brown defects. Of course, the chips need to be a perfect white-gold color. Consumers do not want any bitterness in their chips, so glycoalkaloid levels must be low.
Growers must be able to make a profit growing any new variety, so yields need to be as high or higher than Lamoka. The true yield is how many pounds a grower can sell after a long storage period. Growing costs have inflated so much that yield is more critical than ever.
Chip growers banded together 15 years ago to organize a nationwide trial program to better attack this problem. All growers contribute 3 cents per hundredweight to the national marketing and research organization, Potatoes USA.