Potato Grower

January 2020

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WWW.POTATOGROWER.COM 71 It may surprise many people to learn that wild potatoes grow like weeds in parts of South America. While farmers in the U.S. battle weeds like pigweed and lambsquarters, farmers in the Andes Mountains have to keep weedy potatoes in check. These wild relatives of our potato varieties grow in agricultural fields and on roadsides, as well as in forests and grasslands. They are found in amazingly diverse habitats, from ocean beaches to windswept alpine meadows. Some even grow in the knotholes of oak trees. As you can imagine, wild potatoes must grow in these stressful environments without the aid of fertilizer, irrigation or pesticides. Consequently, they are rich in genes that are useful for potato improvement, especially stress tolerance. Breeders usually refer to native, weedy versions of plants as "crop wild relatives." Collecting and preserving this genetic diversity is crucial to today's food supply. In the Andes, local villagers eat potatoes daily as part of their native diets. They have selected varieties for diverse tastes, textures and cooking qualities. Cultivated potato relatives are also important to breeders. These landraces are valuable sources of genes for culinary traits. The U.S. Potato Genebank in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., maintains a large collection of wild and cultivated potatoes. My job is to find useful genes in the genebank and bring them into cultivated potato so breeders can integrate them into their variety development programs. THE FUTURE OF PRODUCT STORAGE WWW.GELLERT.COM BULK STORAGE BOX STORAGE BIN STORAGE POST HARVEST. SOLVED. 1.888.GELLERT 4072-60AgriStor13h.indd 1 12/9/19 2:59 PM 162809Baicor13s.indd 1 10/25/16 2:58 PM My favorite wild potato, Solanum chacoense, carpets regions of the Chaco province of northern Argentina. It is one of the most broadly adapted wild potato species and has been collected extensively by scientists around the world. It carries a broad array of genes of interest to potato breeders. One clone in my program, named C545, has S. chacoense as a maternal grandparent. Another wild potato, Solanum berthaultii, is a paternal grandparent. C545 has resistance to several important diseases, including Verticillium wilt, potato virus Y, soft rot, common scab and early blight. S. berthaultii, which is found on forested and brushy hillsides from

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