A new New Zealand potato variety selected from a field-grown seedling in 1998 as part of a Crop and Food institute breeding program aimed at maximizing resistance to a wide range of major pests and diseases has been named after the country's world champion mountain runner Melissa Moon.
The research organization said the Moonlight variety's vigorous growth means it makes more efficient use of fertilizer, particularly nitrogen - making it "a very grower-friendly potato."
Moonlight is described as a general purpose main crop potato for local and export markets. It has a moderately long dormancy with medium maturity, high yield and vigor, attractive oval-round to oval tubers with a slightly, crazed skin, physiological defects rare, excellent all round eating quality, high resistance to both species of potato cyst nematode, high bacterial soft rot resistance and high powdery scab resistance.
Moonlight resulted from a cross between 1463.1, a Crop and Food Research fresh market breeding line, and V394, a PCN resistant parent line. Moonlight was evaluated for several years in field trials at general purpose main crop potato variety sites throughout the country.
The major market niche for Moonlight is seen as an early main crop to main crop general purpose fresh market and processing potato for all production areas.
Tubers of Moonlight tend to be oval-round to oval in shape, with shallow eyes. The tuber usually has a slightly crazed or flaky skin and is normally white in color.
Because of the skin finish Moonlight is not suitable for washing but it can make an attractive brush line. The flesh color is white.
Moonlight can be processed successfully for both french fries and chips for a substantial part of the year.
It sets a medium to moderately high number of tubers, but with its high yield potential it has the capability to form reasonably large tubers. Tubers tend to set relatively deep which reduces the problems of greening and potato tuber moth damage.
In screening tests for resistance to late blight Moonlight has shown a high level of resistance. It is very resistant to powdery scab and has shown good resistance in screening tests to bacterial soft rot, and in practice has shown no rots in situations where some other potato varieties were having problems.
Moonlight is resistant to both species of cyst nematode, the yellow Globodera rostochiensis, and the cream G. pallida. In a recent field trial the PCN population more than halved with Moonlight whereas it multiplied by 2.5 with Nadine and by 28 times with Ilam Hardy.
Crop and Field said this resistance was potentially useful but if it was to be maintained effectively it must be used sensibly, mainly by not planting Moonlight into high PCN populations but by using the variety where PCN levels were low or undetectable, and continuing to follow sensible crop rotations.
"This will then ensure that PCN can be controlled effectively in the long term," it said.