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Potato Evaluation Program Helps California Growers

The Issue

California is a major producer of fresh market potatoes in the United States. All types of fresh market potatoes (including russets, whites, reds, yellow fleshed, and specialty) are grown in the potato production regions of California. The growing conditions for these potatoes are significantly different in California, particularly in Kern County and other Southern California locations, as compared to other potato growing areas in the United States.

While California is a major producer of fresh market potatoes, there is not an organized statewide breeding program to accommodate the unique needs of California potato growers. Hence, he potato industry in California has relied on the USDA and out-of-state universities for the development of improved varieties. The varieties are screened and evaluated for their adaptability to California growing conditions, giving particular consideration to the warmer and drier conditions of Southern California.

What Has ANR Done?

A new potato variety development and evaluation program began in 2003. The objectives of the program are:
1. Obtain new and/or improved russet, white, red, chipping, and specialty potato varieties from various breeding programs throughout North America.
2. Determine the adaptability of these new varieties to Southern California growing conditions for improved yields and quality.
3. Determine if any new selection has improved resistance to common diseases, insects, or environmental stress.

To reach these objectives, we have formed the Southwest Region Trials with the California potato industry, Colorado State University and Texas A & M University. Advanced variety lines are made available by CSU and TAMU each year for testing in regional trials.

Varieties from other breeding programs are obtained and planted in either a Kern County Replicated Trial or a Kern County Observational Trial. These sections are made with the help of the potato grower variety selection committee (composed of growers from various potato packing sheds in Kern County). The variety committee determines which varieties would be placed in the observational trial and which would be placed in the replicated trial.

The Payoff

Higher Yields, Better Quality

In 1960 the average potato yield in Kern County was 14.2 tons per acre. In 2004 the average yield was 21.1 tons per acre. The biggest changes during that time have been the introduction of new potato varieties. Higher yielding, better quality, and more disease resistant potato varieties have been the product of UCCE efforts in evaluating new potatoes.


Supporting Unit: Kern County

Joe Nunez
1031 So. Mount Vernon Ave
Bakersfield, CA 93308