New Northwest spuds offer strong disease resistance

Jeanne Debons, executive director of the Potato Variety Management Institute, with potato varieties under her organization's management at the recent University of Idaho Potato Conference in Pocatello, Idaho. PVMI is releasing two new varieties — Castle Russet and Echo Russet.

BEND, Ore. — Officials representing the Idaho, Oregon and Washington potato breeding programs say they’re releasing a pair of new russet varieties that should help position the industry to cope with more stringent regulations on soil fumigants.

The new Tri-State Potato Breeding Program varieties — Castle Russet and high-yielding Echo Russet — are billed as medium- to late-maturing potatoes appropriate for use in both the fresh market and processing. Testing has shown they also have good culinary qualities and cold sweetening resistance, so they fry with a light color even after months in storage.

The Potato Variety Management Institute, which handles licensing and royalty collection of Tri-State varieties, decided to release them in December, said PVMI Executive Director Jeanne Debons. She said a limited number of mini-tubers — those grown from tissue cultures — are available to interested seed growers.

Debons said Echo and Castle are resistant to potato mop-top virus, vectored by the hard-to-control powdery scab fungus. As regulators place increasing restrictions on fumigants, mop-top is becoming more prevalent.

Research by Chuck Brown, a potato breeder with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Prosser, Wash., has shown planting Castle Russet also helps reduce the amount of powdery scab inoculum in soil. Furthermore, Castle is resistant to all strains of potato virus Y and to corky ringspot, which is spread by stubby root nematode and should also become more difficult to control as regulators further restrict fumigants.

“There are not many potatoes right now that have that combination (of resistance), as well as others,” Debons said.

Echo is set apart by its strong yield. Echo averaged 980 hundredweight per acre in trials at Oregon State University’s Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center from 2006 through 2008 — 80 hundredweight better than Russet Burbank. Castle’s yields are comparable to Russet Burbank, said Vidyasagar Sathuvalli, an assistant professor of potato breeding and genetics in Hermiston.

The initial cross for Echo was made in Aberdeen, Idaho, in 1996, and the line was selected by the Oregon State University breeding program.

“The yields are exceptionally good for Echo in all three production regions in the Northwest, said. “(Echo) has been in the system for a while, but there was always an interest among the growers and processors, so we finally decided to release it as a variety.”

Brown made the cross for Castle in Prosser in 2006, and it was also selected in Oregon.

“I think the major companies are very interested in trialing (these varieties) because they need to get that disease resistance in, because chemicals are going to be more limited in the future,” Debons said.

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