Where It All Begins

2015 state certified seed potato reports

Published in the January 2016 Issue Published online: Jan 30, 2016
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Every potato-producing state has legitimate reasons to lay claim to the title of “Best Potatoes,” and that starts with good seed. Following are reports from several states’ respective seed certification programs for 2015.

Colorado

Kent Sather, Colorado Potato Certification Service

Colorado certified seed potato acreage entered in 2015 was 11,667 acres, down 1,062 acres from 2014. About 7,000 acres met eligibility requirements for certified seed sales after summer inspections. The top five certified seed varieties are Russet Norkotah selections, Canela Russet, Classic Russet, Teton Russet and Rio Grande Russet.

Certified seed lots begin with extensive testing of tissue culture plantlets maintained by the Colorado Potato Certification Service (PCS) tissue culture bank at the Colorado State University San Luis Valley Research Center. Disease-free plantlets are distributed to 10 Colorado grower-owned or -operated tissue culture/greenhouse facilities. Their greenhouse minituber production serves as the foundation for from one to six years of field increase for 25 Colorado certified seed potato growers as well as other certified seed growers in the United States.

Detailed historical documentation of seed lots, laboratory serological disease testing, three summer visual inspections, storage inspections, required post-harvest test inspections, and shipping inspections compose the total protocol to provide quality seed potatoes to customers.

The 2015 planting season in the San Luis Valley of Colorado was reasonable. Soil moisture was fair after some early spring showers. Planting progressed rather smoothly. Rain showers in early May interrupted some growers’ plantings for a few days. Slightly cooler weather right after planting—and some cloud cover and forest fire smoke haze—was blamed for slow emergence, tuber setting, sizing and maturity. Growers often indicated plant growth and tuber sizing was a week behind normal. Even so, certified seed growers began killing vines in late July and early August, sacrificing yields but limiting potential spread of community virus. Harvest reports indicated barely average yields. Early maturing varieties were below average yield. Tubers are generally of good grade quality, depending upon the variety.

Certified seed growers have submitted 2015 crop seed lot samples for the post-harvest test, which takes place on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawai’i. The post-harvest test will determine seed eligibility.

The Colorado Seed Act requires all seed lots imported into Colorado undergo a post-harvest test or winter grow-out. Seed growers intending shipment into Colorado should contact their respective certifying agency for submitting samples for post-harvest testing.

Total 2015 potato acreage in the San Luis Valley, including both seed and commercial crops, was 52,186 acres, down 1,282 acres from 2014. Community diseases such as potato virus Y and other environmental issues such as water availability have been and will continue to be major factors affecting future potato crops.

Idaho

Alan Westra,

Southeast Area Manager,

Idaho Crop Improvement Assoc.

After the second field inspection, a total of 33,108 acres were accepted for certification this year in Idaho. This is an increase of 2.3 percent from 2014. Excluding proprietary genetics, this acreage represents a total of 217 varieties, selections and advanced clones. The top varieties for 2015 are Russet Burbank (41 percent of total acreage), Russet Norkotah (all, 16 percent), Ranger Russet (13 percent), and Alturas (4 percent). The acreages of these varieties are essentially unchanged from last year. A complete listing of the 2015 seed potato crop is available in the 2015 Idaho Certified Seed Potato Directory, posted on the Idaho Crop Improvement website at www.idahocrop.com.

Despite the slight increase in acreage, seed availability is expected to be lower than in 2014. Spring rains interrupted or delayed planting of a significant portion of the 2015 Idaho seed potato crop. While some growers have reported excellent yields, others are indicating mixed results, with below normal yield on late plantings.

In general, quality going into storage is good to excellent. However, the summer heat affected early plantings and grade-out is expected to be higher than normal for these seed lots.

Included in this year’s variety profile are two newly named varieties from the Aberdeen breeding program: Mountain Gem Russet (A03158-2TE) and Payette Russet (A02507-2LB). Mountain Gem Russet is a dual-purpose variety with good potential for early processing and as a replacement for Russet Norkotah in the fresh market. Payette Russet is a high-yielding, full-season variety with good fry color, low acrylamide concentrations and resistance to late blight and PVY.

The 2014 changes to Idaho Crop Improvement seed potato certification rules regarding bacterial ring rot, which were detailed, among other places, in last year’s Idaho Annual issue of Potato Grower, are now fully implemented. All seed certified in 2014 was tested under the mandated screening program. Further, all planting stocks used for the 2015 crop were tested for bacterial ring rot prior to planting. Required trace-back and testing of sister and contact lots have allowed the identification of contamination sources and the interception of infected seed lots that might otherwise have entered the commercial market. To date, the new rules are functioning as intended and provide additional assurance of the continued quality of Idaho certified seed potatoes.

Maine

Ellis B. Additon, Director, Maine Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources

Maine experienced a good growing year for seed in 2015. The spring was a little damp and cool, but when the weather broke it remained nearly perfect for the rest of the season up until the week of Oct. 12 in southern Aroostook County.

The 2015 crop is large in volume and appears high in quality. Most seed growers in Maine seemed to get rain as needed all summer and had good temperatures for growing.

As of Oct. 22, the certification program has 10,488 acres entered from 117 farms for certification for 2016. The top five varieties entered for 2016 are:

Atlantic: 996 acres

Snowden: 748 acres

Dark Red Norland: 620 acres

Superior (N.Y. Strain): 580 acres

Reba: 459 acres

The summer of 2015 saw the retirement of Allison Todd, Maine’s seed certification manager, after more than 40 years of service to the state and its growers. Eric Hitchcock has been welcomed as the new program director.

Inspectors are currently busy receiving, sorting and preparing tuber samples in preparation for planting in Florida for the post-harvest grow-out.

Minnesota

Jeff Miller, Certified Seed Potato Specialist, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

In 2015, 6,477 acres of seed potatoes were entered for certification in Minnesota, compared to 6,693 acres in 2014, a decrease of 216 acres (down 3.2 percent). Of these, 5,699 acres passed summer certification compared to 5,575 acres in 2014, an increase of 124 acres (up 2.2 percent). There were 28 seed-growing operations in Minnesota in 2015, compared to 25 seed operations in 2014.

Minnesota seed growers experienced crop challenges for a third year in a row. A few fields were planted earlier than normal. But a cold, wet spring delayed planting three to four weeks in most areas, causing seed growers to miss the normal mid-May planting dates. The majority of the acres were planted the last week of May to mid-June.

Then the rains came again, and some fields did not get planted until the first week of July. As summer progressed, some growing areas experienced heavy rainfall—some reported 6 to 8 inches. This, combined with the later planting, has had an effect on yields.

As summer passed into fall, harvest got off to a good start. It turned extremely dry in September and October, and many growers held off harvesting for a few weeks until much-needed rain returned to soften the soil. As it turned out, with the nicer weather in late October and into November, some growers didn’t finish until the second week of November, almost unheard of in Minnesota.

When all was said and done, some growers have said they saw a greater than average yield and have had to rent warehouses to store their crop. However, most growers are saying their yields are average or even on the lighter side. The quality of the crop looks very good to excellent.

Red Norland and Dark Red Norland varieties have the largest combined acreage in Minnesota at 1,734 acres, with Russet Burbank coming in second at 1,010 acres. Other major red-skinned varieties include Chieftain, 238 acres; Red La Soda-New York, 216 acres; Red Pontiac, 224 acres; Dark Red Chieftain, 140 acres; Dakota Rose, 91 acres; and Dakota Ruby, 56 acres. White-skinned varieties include Cascade, 456 acres; Dakota Pearl, 335 acres; Kennebec, 165 acres; and CalWhite, 66 acres. Other russet-skinned varieties include Umatilla Russet, 36 acres; Alpine Russet, 62 acres; and Russet Norkotah, 18 acres. Yellow-fleshed varieties were mainly Yukon Gold, 154 acres; and Satina, 79 acres.

Other varieties entered into certification with varied acreage include All Blue, Irish Cobbler, Viking, Norchip, Dakota Crisp, Lamoka, Waneta, Goldrush, Ranger Russet, Jelly, Milva, Nicolet, Runestone Gold and Sangre.

North Dakota

Willem Schrage, North Dakota State Seed Department

The 2015 harvest season in North Dakota showed regional differences. Some farms had to wait for rain, while others had to wait because of the rain. Most farms saw a fairly smooth harvest operation. The certified seed acres went down 7.5 percent from 16,104 acres in 2014 to 14,888 acres in 2015. There was an increase in the Norland variety, up to 4,738 acres. Other varieties on more than 750 acres certified were for processing (Umatilla Russet, Prospect, Russet Burbank and Ranger Russet), for chipping (Dakota Pearl) and for fresh (Red La Soda).

In North Dakota the 2015 growing season turned out to be good in most areas. There was one region with too much rain, which did reduce yields. Planting was spread out over a longer season. Rains came late in the spring, but when they came some did not stop for a while. Top-kill started in August, and the last harvesting day for seed potatoes was Oct. 22, with the bulk done about 10 days earlier.

The North Dakota State Seed Department not only inspects seed, but also produces mini-tubers for North Dakota certified seed potato growers. Inspectors inspect seed fields submitted for certification at shipping point. Some are also in contact with the customers of seed potatoes through conducting the GAP audits.

The Aphid Alert program was again managed by the Dr. Ian MacRae of the University of Minnesota. The program gave warning when aphids were present in the traps. The Blight Line posted by Dr. Gary Secor of North Dakota State University gave good news through the season. In 2015 North Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba seemed to be a triangle where late blight was not detected until some harvesting had commenced.

The winter test results should be available soon. The venue for the North Dakota winter test has changed to Alger Farms, Inc., a family farm in Homestead, Fla. Laboratory testing of leaves for viruses is done at the laboratory of the Seed Department. Testing is mandatory for varieties expected to be potential symptomless carriers, but it is also done when requested by a customer. Some testing for genetically modified organisms is also done at the Seed Department.

Testing for late blight and bacterial ring rot is done at the Diagnostic Laboratory of North Dakota State University, a USDA/APHIS-approved lab. Testing is done when needed, generally on request of the customer.

The directory of North Dakota Certified Seed Potatoes may be obtained from the North Dakota State Seed Department by calling (701) 231-5400 or by emailing Willem Schrage at wschrage@ndseed.ndsu.edu. 

Oregon

Jeff McMorran,
Oregon Seed Certification Service

Planting conditions were nearly ideal in most of Oregon’s seed potato production areas in 2015. However, unusually hot weather occurred over much of the growing season. This warmer weather did not seem to negatively affect yields or tuber quality, although inspectors did notice increased levels of blackleg, white mold, and Alternaria-like leaf spotting in many lots.

Harvest conditions were a bit warm at the beginning of the season, causing some delays, but turned into comfortably warm, calm autumn days and cool, fair nights for the rest of the harvest season. Yields were exceptional for many varieties resulting, in some cases, in a scramble to find adequate storage space. Water shortages in some areas continued to be a looming issue, resulting in increased commercial production in traditional seed areas. Mosaic and other serious diseases were either absent or well within tolerable levels for most seed lots. Harvest inspectors observed very few internal issues.

Oregon had 2,860 acres of seed potatoes entered for certification in 2015, about average. Of these, 2,833 acres were accepted, 27 were withdrawn (generally for poor stands), and none were rejected based on field readings. Oregon certified 117.6 acres in northern California and 187 acres in northern Nevada (both near the Oregon border), with the rest in Oregon proper. Production areas included 1,018 acres in the Klamath Falls area, 776 Union County, 404 in Gilliam County (near Ione), and 449 in Jefferson County. There was no potato seed production in Malheur County this year.

Seed production of Russet Norkotah was the primary variety produced, at 18.5 percent of Oregon production (by acres). However, other fresh market varieties like Gala, Blushing Belle (HO2000), Yukon Gold, Purple Majesty, Chieftain and others now make up a significant amount of Oregon seed production (around 20 percent). Processing varieties make up the major category of seed varieties produced at about 55 percent. In 2015, these were predominantly Ranger Russet, Umatilla Russet, Shepody, Alturas, Atlantic and Frito-Lay varieties. This year the “old standby,” Russet Burbank, only made up 1.2 percent of Oregon seed acreage. Unlike last year, in 2015 Oregon had no production of Simplot’s new Innate I or Innate II varieties.

The source of Oregon-grown seed continues to be out-of-state, predominately Montana, Nebraska and Canada, with only 7 percent of our production coming from Oregon-produced stock (based on acres planted). Nevertheless, this year 31 percent of our lots were first- or second-field-year production (nuclear and G1 class in Oregon), so this situation is likely to change. The primary class produced continues to be G2, at 34 percent of planted acres. Specific information on the varieties and acreage produced in Oregon can be found online at www.seedcert.oregonstate.edu/potatoes.

In 2015, the Oregon Seed Certification Service hired a new full-time inspector, Tami Brown, who will assist with seed potato inspections, as well as heading up our grass seed stock program. Two new part-time harvest inspectors were also hired: Bev Day, for fields near Ione, Ore.; and Jerris Fenters, to assist in the Klamath area.

Washington

John L. Wraspir, Plant Services Program Supervisor, Washington State Dept. of Agriculture

A total of 3,238 acres of seed potatoes were certified in Washington State in 2015, only a  24-acre increase from last season. Seventy-one acres were certified as organic. 

Ten farming operations produced 173 varieties in two distinct growing regions. The types of varieties grown include a small number of acres for numbered clones, fingerlings and other heirloom varieties; the majority of acres produced varieties known for larger commercial production. The top five varieties by acres grown were Chieftain, Russet Burbank, Umatilla Russet, Ciklamen, and Red LaSoda.

All seed stocks are required to be sourced from mother plants that are lab tested and found free of disease. Increases from mother plants are planted in beds of sterile soilless media in insect-proof greenhouses to produce mini-tubers. In addition, Washington has a new private facility producing mini-tubers hydroponically. Ten percent of plants producing mini-tubers are required to be laboratory tested for disease. Certified seed stock meeting Washington standards and sourced from out of state or Canada qualifies for certification in Washington. Seed stocks are limited to six field-growing seasons, after which they are flushed from system.     

The majority of seed potatoes are grown in an isolation district located in northwestern Washington. This coastal region normally enjoys cool maritime weather. That was not the case this year, with a dramatic increase in growing season temperatures. Growers were scrambling to keep up with irrigation all season long. Keeping up with irrigation was nothing new for a third of total state acres grown in the semi-arid region of eastern Washington.

Although both regions endured above normal temperatures during the days, the nighttime temperatures cooled down considerably. That, along with supplemental irrigation, provided ideal growing conditions. Aphid pressure was lowered considerably on account of the hot weather. The dry weather was not favorable for late blight, blackleg and other tuber rot diseases.

Harvest began the first part of September and was complete by the middle of October. WSDA staff conducts inspections of each seed lot at this time, targeting tubers going into storage, as well as tubers diverted into cull bins, cutting tubers and inspecting for the presence of potato disease of concern. WSDA staff noted good quality, condition, and size uniformity of seed lots going into storage this season with growers reporting average to above-average yields.

WSDA conducts post-harvest test evaluations in a commercial greenhouse facility under private contract.  Greenhouse staff plant whole tubers in soilless media and in individual pots, grown under natural light conditions, supplemented with heat and irrigation. WSDA evaluates plants and determines potato virus based on visual plant symptoms.