Potato Grower

September 2020

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WWW.POTATOGROWER.COM 15 would be if there was no genebank and every scientist in the U.S. who wanted to pursue new genetics in exotic potato relatives had to start from scratch. How would he get taxonomic information on species boundaries and relatedness to cultivars? Having gotten that information and settled on a species to study, could he organize an expedition to Latin America to collect samples for himself? The potato crop depends on a lot of different inputs, but these are often available from several brands and vendors. In contrast, for unique genetic tools outside of the current breeding pool, U.S. breeders have only one practical source—our own Wisconsin genebank. HOW MANY POTATO SPECIES DOES THE GENEBANK HAVE? The USPG has about 5,000 populations of approximately 100 potato species. Although wild, many of these species can be incorporated into the crop with fairly simple techniques. For several reasons, it is more efficient to keep these stocks as seed populations, which involves hand pollination of thousands of plants each year in the greenhouse. Of course, cultivated potato is a clonal crop, so the USPG also has a collection of about 1,000 cultivars from around the world, plus breeding and genetic stocks. These are kept and distributed in sterile test tube culture. All these stocks are subject Potatoes are planted in a U.S. Potato Genebank (USPG) greenhouse to multiply the seed lots. Potatoes are planted in a U.S. Potato Genebank (USPG) greenhouse to multiply the seed lots. John Bamberg says his job involves helping breeders move genes for tuber quality, and pest, disease and environmental stress resistance from the small, inedible wild species (in his left hand) to productive new varieties (in his right hand). As part of its diversity initiative, the staff members of the USPG discovered a floral mutant, Coronita, with multiple pistils but no anthers. Big tuber mutants of the wild diploid Mexican species Solanum cardiophyllum are shown next to typical little wild tubers. Alfonso del Rio collects wild potatoes in the Pinaleno Mountains of southeastern Arizona.

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