Selecting suitable varieties is the first step in any successful potato operation. Not only must varieties suit the intended market, but they must also be well adapted to local growing conditions.
Potato breeders are continuously releasing new varieties, but varieties that perform well in one region may not do well in neighbouring areas. Thus, new varieties must be evaluated to determine local adaptation.
In 2016, the Dutch company HZPC, a world leader in potato breeding, seed potato trade and product concept development, sponsored an on-farm variety trial in Ontario. Many commercial HZPC varieties are grown in the province; examples are Adora, Vivaldi, Colomba, Innovator, Fabula, Ambra, Smart and Whitney. The trial was organized and hand planted by Eugenia Banks at Dorsey Farms near Alliston. Plot maintenance – weekly irrigation, application of crop protection products when needed and top-killing – was done by Brad Dorsey and his son Adam.
This trial was a real test for new varieties because of the extremely high temperatures and drought that prevailed all summer. Such extreme conditions promote the development of problems such as second growth, heat necrosis and Pythium leak, to name a few.
A total of 100 new varieties/clones plus standards for comparison were evaluated. Fresh market yellows, whites, reds, blues, purples, fingerlings, russets and also processing potatoes were included in the trial.
Among the new yellow fleshed varieties, Salinero, Primabelle, Noblesse, Panamera, Orlena and Jennifer performed very well. The standard for yellows was Colomba, a beautiful smooth skin, high yielding variety that is being grown commercially in Ontario.
A red, yellow fleshed entry, Clone #46, produced a high yield of attractive round tubers with smooth, deep red skin. It has excellent culinary traits. Probably, this clone will be named in the near future. Fenway Red, an early-maturing red with round, attractive white fleshed tubers, got good scores. Sunred was noticeable for its high yield.
In the white flesh table category, the recently released Whitney was hard to beat due to its high tolerance to common scab, beautiful smooth skin and no culls. The white fleshed Ivory Russet performed very well. Pomerelle Russet, a standard for russets, produced a good crop of long, heavy-russeted tubers of medium yield, but no culls.
In the specialty category, the red-skinned Prince of Orange has the darkest yellow flesh of any of the current varieties. It will be of interest to growers producing potatoes for the gourmet market. Prince of Orange has outstanding culinary traits. Mozart was, as usual, a winner in the specialty category: beautiful, with smooth pinkish skin, high yield and very tasty.
After yield was taken, a sample of each of the 100 entries was put in storage to determine their dry matter content, culinary traits, susceptibility to silver scurf and Fusarium dry rot. The entries with the highest scores will be displayed at growers’ meetings.
This on-farm trial exceeded the expectations: no heat related problems were detected, yield was above average and several entries look promising for the Ontario market.
On-farm variety trials provide invaluable information for potato growers and are an important component of technology transfer. I will have more on-farm variety trials in the Alliston, Shelburne and Waterdown areas that will be dug the coming weeks.