Genome helps breeders develop better potato

Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Oregon State University potato breeder Sagar Sathuvalli says mapping of the potato genome is a boon for contemporary breeding efforts.

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Sequencing of the potato genome will aid the development of new varieties, Oregon State University’s breeder says.

Sagar Sathuvalli, based in Hermiston, Ore., said the use of genetic mapping can reduce the length of the potato breeding process, which typically takes 10 to 15 years, by two to three years.

“The main use of genomics is to find the better parents and the probability of finding the best progeny of the best parents,” he said.

Marker selection will allow breeders to add key value-added traits like increased nutritional benefits or resistance to diseases like Potato Virus Y and the late blight fungus or pests like potato psyllids and Columbia root-knot nematodes.

He stressed the need for field testing of selections before commercial release.

Sathuvalli’s program includes making visual selections at the program’s testing sites in Oregon, the Pacific Northwest and the western United States, narrowing the field from an initial 100,000 seeds.

“Each seed has the potential to become a new variety,” Sathuvalli said.

The breeding process is a regional team effort, Sathuvalli said. He hopes to work with growers and the industry in the early stages of breeding to ensure they offer feedback in variety selection.

Sathuvalli’s research priorities are 80 percent processing and fresh market russet potatoes, with the remaining 20 percent devoted to chipper and specialty potatoes.

Key processing russet  traits include long-term storage, bruise and shrinkage resistance, improved texture and flavor and high yields. For fresh market russets, research priorities include bruise resistance, early maturity,  high yields and long dormancy.

Sathuvalli addressed the general session of the Washington Oregon Potato Conference in Kennewick, Wash.


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