New varieties to ‘smile’ about
By Rosalie I. Tennison
While many potential new varieties are grown in test plots across Canada each year, few make it to the next stage of development. Tested for adaptation in all potato growing areas of the country, few have the chance of becoming a Canadian standard. Active testing programs through the Ontario agriculture department and the Ontario Potato Board introduced growers to some promising varieties in 2008.
|While Smile potatoes may not yield as well as other varieties, their premium market has growers grinning, too.
While many potential new varieties are grown in test plots across
Canada each year, few make it to the next stage of development. Tested
for adaptation in all potato growing areas of the country, few have the
chance of becoming a Canadian standard. Active testing programs through
the Ontario agriculture department and the Ontario Potato Board
introduced growers to some promising varieties in 2008.
On the table stock side, Saphire, a commercially proven variety under
exclusive licence in Europe by the United Kingdom-based Tesco company,
drew a great deal of interest at the Ontario Potato Day in Alliston in
August 2008 Saphire offers some favourable characteristics, such as the
ability to maintain flavour well into late spring following long-term
storage. Saphire thrives under irrigation, but it also has good drought
tolerance due to an aggressive growing plant that develops one of the
strongest rooting systems found in cultivated varieties. Saphire has
wide resistance to foliar and soilborne diseases and will produce high
yields under widely varied climatic and production conditions.
It is not a perfect variety, according to Eugenia Banks, the potato
specialist with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
(OMAFRA), because its scab tolerance is not as high as growers might
like. Offered through Real Potatoes, the word is that seed has been
committed for the next two seasons and is available through company
representatives. “We saw three other promising varieties for the
Ontario market, in particular,” adds Banks. “Ambra, Winema and Sifra
each offer some characteristics that might appeal to growers.” She says
light yellow-fleshed Ambra has medium early maturity with vines dying
by August 15 leaving a medium set of attractive, very smooth oval
tubers with bright skin and it washes well. “Last year Ambra was grown
commercially in Ontario with good results and had medium tolerance to
common scab,” she adds.
Red-skinned Winema tubers are round, smooth-skinned with shallow eyes.
The variety also has medium early maturity and the deep red skin colour
does not fade appreciably in storage. “Winema has low specific
gravity,” Banks continues. Unfortunately, Winema is susceptible to
Late maturing, white fleshed Sifra has high set and very high yield,
but also is susceptible to common scab. The round, attractive smooth
tubers may not be enough to encourage adding it into the mix.
Another variety offered by Real Potatoes is Smile, a specialty variety
that is sure to please parents trying to encourage their children to
eat potatoes in forms other than French fries. Already being served by
Tesco, Smile is a red skinned potato with a white skin smile appearing
over each eye of the potato. Two or three can be put on a plate,
according to Gerard Basten, sales manager for Real Potatoes, and the
potatoes smile at the diner. It is another option in the specialty
potato market that yields moderately; but what growers lose in yield
can be made up in the premium charged in that market.
Breeding programs throughout the country continue to search for the
illusive scab resistant variety, but along the way they are able to
make incremental improvements. Occasionally, a variety that shows
promise in another market, such as specialty, offers growers new
options. Getting high yield, good storage, scab resistance and flavour
in one compact package is the ultimate goal, and breeders continually
improve on what is available to reach it.