Officials with the Tri-State Potato Breeding Program say recent and ongoing field trials of many of their new varieties show most yield better with less nitrogen, pesticides and water than the industry standby, Russet Burbank.
For the new varieties to enjoy widespread planting and play a more significant role in improving growers' sustainability, however, officials note they must achieve greater acceptance by quick-serve restaurants, or QSRs.
University of Idaho Extension economist Paul Patterson aided in the trials, which aim to produce data to help get new varieties into more QSRs.
"All you can do is provide the best research-based information, and (QSRs) will make a decision based on what's best for their corporation and their customers," Patterson said.
The program's last variety to be approved by the major QSR, McDonalds, was Umatilla Russet, added in 2002. Jeff Stark, director of the University of Idaho's Potato Variety Development Program, said QSRs invest a lot of time and money on evaluating processing attributes before approving a variety under their rigid standards.
Russet Burbank still represents 52.5 percent of Idaho's 2012 crop, but its usage has gradually declined throughout the years, down from 71 percent in 2002.
SOURCE: John O’Connell, Capital Press