ABERDEEN, Idaho—Costs of running the USDA's Agricultural Research Service potato breeding program here have increased steadily in recent years, though federal funding has been held flat.
The program is now down one full-time technician and has reduced the number of clones it develops in search of potato varieties capable of filling key niches within the industry. Three years ago, the Aberdeen breeding program began with about 120,000 first-generation clones. This year, the program started the selection process with a pool of 96,000 first-year clones, said Jonathan Whitworth, one of two scientists involved in potato breeding at the Aberdeen facility.
"Even with new technologies, with potatoes it's still a numbers game," said Whitworth, a plant pathologist.
Clones are subjected to field, taste, storage and frying trials over the course of more than a decade, with only the top candidates retained. One or two may eventually emerge as new varieties.
SOURCE: John O’Connell, Capital Press