The humble potato in the sun-drenched US state of Texas may finally have had its chips!
For the first time food experts have developed a spud as part of the Texas A&M Potato Breeding Program that could be commercially viable in the french fry market.
Dr Isabel Vales, Texas A&M AgriLife potato breeder, speaking at recent field day in the southern High Plains near Springlake, is optimistic about the new variety.
“We are quite excited about a light russet experimental potato clone that has a very special feature: a high percentage of starch and high gravity even under the very stressful high-temperature conditions in Texas,” she said.
“I think the french fry processing market, for which Texas has not released any processing russets, is a possibility.”
Historically, Texas has not been a player in the American french fry market largely because of competition from the US Northwest.
“But also, in Texas, we cannot get the high solids required for the processing markets,” said Dr Vales.
“Out of all of the varieties and experimental clones we evaluated over time, none of them had a high gravity.
“The experimental clone COTX08063-2Ru has a high specific gravity, even under high heat stress conditions in Texas, and makes very good french fries. This is the second year this clone is in the National French Fry Potato Trials.”
She said the amount of starch in potato tubers is the main factor determining a potato’s use.
High solids or gravity means the potatoes are solid and dense. The potato yield is high, as is the starchy matter.
High-starch potatoes are often used to make processed foods such as fries, chips and dehydrated potatoes.
Potatoes with low to medium starch levels are frequently used for the fresh or table stock market.
There are four regional development groups across the United States working on developing new varieties – Northwestern taking in Washington, Oregon and Idaho; North Central, which includes North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan; Northeastern with the states of North Carolina, New York, Maine and Florida; and Southwestern, in which Texas is joined by Colorado and California.
Texas A&M University, Colorado State University and the University of California at Davis initiated the Southwestern Regional Potato Cultivar Development Project to meet the unique needs of the region’s potato industry, Dr Vales said.
Crosses and original selections are made in Colorado and Texas, followed by regional evaluation trials in all three states and additional states in the western region –Oregon, Idaho and Washington.
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