By JOHN O'CONNELL
Two companies have inquired about obtaining rights to a unique potato with red skin and flesh, called TerraRosa, that was poised to be dropped as a protected variety due to lack of grower interest.
Jeanne Debons, executive director of the Potato Variety Management Institute, said representatives of an Idaho business and a Canadian company approached her about the variety after she made an appeal during the Montana Seed Potato Growers meeting, hosted in Bozeman Nov. 8-9.
The companies both plan to submit proposals to sublicense TerraRosa, a full-sized mid-season spud bred by Chuck Brown with the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Vegetable and Forage Crop Research Unit in Prosser, Wash. TerraRosa is a product of the Tri-State Potato Research and Breeding Program with similar attributes to the fingerling AmaRosa.
Debons said one company hopes to offer TerraRosa as a colorful fresh option while the other is considering using it for making red chips high in antioxidants.
"A red potato chip would be unique, and this was something that they were apparently already looking for," Debons said.
Debons said the two companies could work together since their market applications wouldn't be competitive. She hopes to have plans to present to her board in January.
PVMI pays roughly $8,000 to $12,000 to protect a variety for 20 years. A condition of a sublicensing agreement would be that it would at least cover licensing costs, Debons said.
Approval of an agreement for TerraRosa would mark the second time PVMI has sublicensed a variety. In August 2009, PVMI granted the exclusive North American license to the purple fingerling Purple Pelisse to Klamath Basin Fresh Direct Cooperative. Debons said 35.65 acres of Purple Pelisse seed were certified this season, with growers planting it in four states.
TerraRosa seed was made available in 2010. Growers planted just a tenth of an acre of TerraRosa seed in 2011 and only a slightly larger amount this season. Debons said granting exclusive marketing rights would provide an incentive for a private company to promote the variety.
Debons said the variety is "ahead of its time" in North America but has generated great interest in Europe.
"Of the chefs who have had a chance to use it, they really like it for its antioxidant properties, as well as the many opportunities it provides to create color and excitement on a plate. They like the taste, and they like the TerraRosa cooking qualities," Debons said.