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Research centre kicks off Year of Potato

To celebrate the International Year of the Potato, the Government of Canada, through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Potato Research Centre (PRC) in Fredericton, New Brunswick, is offering 15 new varieties for further testing.


February 21, 2008
By Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

February 20, 2008

FREDERICTON, NB -The Government of Canada is working hard for farmers, providing them with new opportunities and potato varieties. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Potato Research Centre (PRC) in Fredericton is offering 15 new promising potatoes to industry for further testing.

"This Government is working hard for farmers and Canadians by continuously promoting innovation and advancement in agriculture," said the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board. "Today’s release of these new and promising potatoes is a perfect way to mark the United Nations’ International Year of the Potato. The Government of Canada is proud to support the Potato Research Centre which continues to develop some of the best potatoes in the world."


Since 1950, the PRC in Fredericton has produced 32 new varieties of potatoes, including the first "made-in-Canada potato" and the world’s second most popular French fry processing potato, the Shepody. A total of 62 varieties have been developed, released and registered for production across Canada by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada potato breeders, including the popular Yukon Gold developed jointly with the University of Guelph and the Ontario Department of Agriculture.


Each February for the past 11 years, the PRC has hosted an open house to offer industry the best of its new and promising potatoes under the Accelerated Release Program. This year’s potatoes have already undergone a minimum of six years of a rigorous testing and selection program. The potential potatoes are tested for adaptation, yield, size, colour, cooking and processing quality, resistance to diseases and pests and other characteristics before they are offered to the industry.


Industry representatives receive detailed information on each new potato available and can obtain the non-exclusive rights to conduct their own field and processing trials for two years.


Today’s releases include five French fry selections, one chip selection, eight fresh market selections and one purple flesh selection that is high in antioxidants. It’s a colourful group, including some with light red, purple or russet skin and some with yellow or light yellow flesh.


Eighty-five of these new promising potatoes have been offered under the program, with commercial licences being obtained by industry for 12 of them.


BACKGROUNDER

The United Nations has designated 2008 as the International Year of the Potato to help raise awareness of the important role potatoes can play in addressing the challenges of hunger, poverty and threats to the environment.


With a 2006 production level of almost 315 million tonnes, the potato is the fourth leading food crop in the world after maize, wheat and rice.


The potato is the most important vegetable crop in Canada, generating sales of $792.5 million in 2006 and representing 33 per cent of all vegetable farm cash receipts.


In 2005, Canadians consumed about 71 kilograms per capita.


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) currently conducts potato research at four research centres across the country – the Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, the Crops and Livestock Research Centre in Charlottetown, the Lethbridge Research Centre in Alberta and the Brandon Research Centre in Manitoba.


AAFC’s breeding program has resulted in 62 new potato varieties to date.

The Potato Research Centre released the first Canadian-bred potato variety in 1950 called Keswick, still a popular home garden potato in parts of New Brunswick. Since then, the centre has developed 32 varieties, including the world’s second most popular potato processing variety, the Shepody.


The Potato Research Centre is home to the Potato Gene Resources Repository, a collection of over 130 different potato varieties to ensure that diversity in potatoes in Canada is preserved.


Current research at the Potato Research Centre includes the study of what are believed to be health-promoting attributes in the flesh and skin of coloured potatoes.


Non-food applications for potatoes include using potato starch in the pharmaceutical, textile, wood and paper industries and as a 100 per cent biodegradable substitute for polystyrene and other plastics.


Potato peel and other waste from potato processing can be liquefied and fermented to produce fuel-grade ethanol.