Potatoes News

Genome helps breeders develop better potato

Sequencing of the potato genome will aid the development of new varieties, Oregon State University’s breeder says.

Sagar Sathuvalli, based in Hermiston, Ore., said the use of genetic mapping can reduce the length of the potato breeding process, which typically takes 10 to 15 years, by two to three years.

Read more in the Capital Press »

Potato trials offer variety

Clint Shock, director and professor of the Oregon State University Malheur Experiment Station, cut open a potato and held it out. The pink colored flesh of the specialty spud stood out in the autumn sun.

“A potato is a source of starch,” he said, “but it’s also a source of many other properties of human health.”

Like vitamins and antioxidants.

Read more in the Herald and News »

New OSU potato breeder seeks new varieties

Oregon State University's new potato breeder, Sagar Sathuvalli, is looking at 1,800 selections in his plots at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

If all goes well, two or three of the selections will become named varieties.

Such is the reality in the breeding world, where a 1 to 2 percent success rate is considered good, and progress is measured in years, rather than days or weeks.

Read more in the Capital Press »

These drones spy on spuds

This is one of two remotely-piloted vehicles researchers will be using here at the Oregon State University's Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

It's called the HawkEye. It weighs just eight pounds and is roughly the size of small duffle bag. It has a propeller, but no wings.  It's kept in the air with a brightly colored parasail. 

Read more at OPB »

Drones hit new turf: U.S. farmland

Farmers are starting to investigate the use of drones for a decidedly nonmilitary purpose: monitoring crops and spraying pesticides.

As the spring growing season unfolds, universities already are working with agricultural groups to experiment with different types of unmanned aircraft outfitted with sensors and other technologies to measure and protect crop health.

Oregon State University plans to use the unmanned vehicles to monitor the school's potato crop and those of a commercial potato grower. Both crops, located near Hermiston, Ore., are expected to sprout in coming weeks. The university last month ran its first test-flight.

Read more in Wall Street Journal »

Drones To Check Out Acres Of Potatoes

Researchers with Oregon State University believe new remote-controlled aircraft could help farmers better manage resources in the field, lowering their costs while increasing yield of high-value crops.

The university is leasing two small unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, from Boeing Co. to fly over 50 acres of potato fields at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center, as well as 1,000 acres at a private farm west of Boardman.

Read more at OPB »

OSU has new potato breeding head after two-year vacancy

Oregon State University once again has a plant breeder leading its potato development efforts after filling a position that was vacant for nearly two years.

Sagar Sathuvalli, who started this month, is leading OSU's work to create new varieties of potatoes that are more nutritious and resist pests and diseases, including late blight. He is based at its Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

A native of India, Sathuvalli spent most of the last decade in Corvallis, earning doctoral and master’s degrees in horticulture from OSU. In 2011, he began working as a post-doctoral research associate in hazelnut breeding and genetics at OSU.

In his new post, Sathuvalli and his colleagues will search for favorable traits in wild species, then cross those potatoes with domesticated ones. Creating new breeds of potatoes can take at least 12 years, but OSU hopes to speed up the process by using genetic markers, which are sequences of DNA that are found near genes researchers are analyzing.

Sathuvalli assumes the responsibilities of departed OSU potato researchers Dan Hane, who retired, and Isabel Vales, who accepted a job elsewhere.

The position had remained vacant because of funding shortages, said Russ Karow, the head of OSU’s department of crop and soil science. A portion of Sathuvalli’s salary will be funded through an endowment created by a recent $500,000 commitment to OSU by the Oregon Potato Commission.

“There is an expectation to find new varieties for the Pacific Northwest,” Karow said. “We are in a strong cooperative relationship with the Oregon Potato Commission, regularly discussing issues and research. We work hand-in-hand with the commission to look at their research priorities.”

Sathuvalli is also working closely with OSU's potato researchers around the state, including Solomon Yilma in Corvallis, Brian Charlton in Klamath Falls and Clint Shock in Ontario. The group is collaborating on breeding and marketing efforts with peers in Washington and Idaho as part of the Pacific Northwest Tri-State Breeding Program.

“We will try to find solutions as a team,” said Sathuvalli. “My main philosophy is to listen to growers, to see what they’re interested in and any issues in variety development. I look forward to finding out what the industry needs.”

When not conducting research, Sathuvalli will perform duties for the OSU Extension Service by disseminating new information to farmers and processors. Among his top priorities is to spearhead the development of a new website.

“We will use the website to create awareness about our breeding program. It will house information useful for researchers across the globe,” said Sathuvalli. “Hopefully it will bring new collaborations, too.”

Real-time alerts about disease and pest outbreaks, such as zebra chip and tuber moth, will also be featured prominently on the website.

Potatoes were Oregon's sixth most-important agricultural commodity in terms of gross sales in 2011, according to a report by the OSU Extension Service. The state's sold $165 million of them in 2011 after harvesting nearly 40,000 acres, the report said.