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Maine Potato Board releases two new potato varieties

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The Maine Potato Board The Maine Potato Board

ORONO –The Maine Potato Board (MPB) is excited to announce the release of two new potato varieties, Easton and Sebec. Developed in partnership with the University of Maine over the past several growing seasons, the two varieties focus on the processing industry, although both are deemed appropriate for fresh market consumption.

The Easton and Sebec varieties are the first to be released by the University of Maine in the past decade, and the first varieties to be release in partnership with the MPB.  In addressing the release, Tim Hobbs, director of development and grower relations for the MPB, said, “Potatoes are bred for a multitude of characteristics. Everything from disease resistance to improved fry color. To get the right combination of characteristics in one variety takes a large investment in time and resources. Eventually this investment pays off. The initial results of the investment in Maine is the release of these two varieties, Easton and Sebec, out of the breeding program that Greg Porter oversees at the University of Maine.”

One of the released varieties, the Easton, is a new french fry processing potato variety. Easton was tested under the research identification number AF3001-6 and resulted from a cross between Silverton Russet and AF1668-60 that was conducted by the UMaine potato breeding program during 2002.  

It was selected in the field at Aroostook Research Farm in Presque Isle, ME during 2004. Field evaluations conducted since 2004 indicate that Easton is typically higher yielding than the standard french fry processing variety, Russet Burbank, and that it produces lighter-colored French fries. It also typically had less hollow heart and fewer tuber defect problems than Russet Burbank. Tubers of Easton are white-fleshed and long to long-oblong with a textured to lightly russeted skin. While french fry processing is expected to be the primary market for Easton, it also has excellent flavor and is very good boiled, mashed or baked.  

It has outstanding late-season vigor and good resistance to Verticillium wilt, a common soil-borne plant disease that is present in most production areas. Research conducted at the university indicates that Easton can be grown with approximately 25 percent less nitrogen and potassium fertilizer than Russet Burbank.  

Easton is named after a northern Maine town in Aroostook County that is in the heart of Maine’s most intensively cropped potato production area.

The other new variety, Sebec, was also developed by the University of Maine and is expected to primarily be useful for out-of-field potato chip production in growing areas that currently rely on the standard chipping variety, Atlantic.   

Field evaluations conducted in Maine and throughout Eastern North American since 2003 indicate that Sebec is high yielding and widely-adapted. It produces high yields from Maine through the Mid-Atlantic States and into the North Carolina, Florida and other southern production areas. Sebec typically produces yields which are equal to or greater than the standard, high-yielding chipping variety, Atlantic, with a much lower incidence of internal tuber defects than Atlantic.   

Sebec produces good quality potato chips directly from the field; however, it does not produce light-colored chips from storage. Sebec tubers are round to slightly oblong with a lightly textured, buff-colored skin and white flesh. While chip potato processing from the field is expected to be the primary market for Sebec, it has good flavor and can also be useful for fresh market consumption.  

Sebec plants have good vigor and mature at mid-season. The variety has good resistance to Verticillium wilt, a common soil-borne plant disease that is present in most production areas. Sebec was tested under the research identification number AF0338-17 and resulted from a 2001 cross between two University of Maine parental clones, AF303-5 and SA8211-6. It was selected in the field at Aroostook Research Farm in Presque Isle, ME during 2003.  Sebec is named after a beautiful lake in central Maine.

The partnership between the University of Maine and the MPB serves both parties well and is even better for the Maine potato industry. Kris Burton, Department of Industrial Cooperation, UMaine hints at future projects by saying, “There are currently several other varieties we are evaluating for release over the next few years through our partnership with the board.  Working closely with the board allows us to commercialize the best varieties to support the Maine potato industry and further research in the field.”

Don Flannery, MPB executive director, echoes similar sentiments:

“The university has the research and development capability and commitment for developing new potato varieties, from the lab to the field, which takes years. They understand what the growers and the industry are looking for and need. We in turn, the MPB, have the capacity to promote the varieties and maintain the quality of seed certification required for the integrity of the variety and the market. We are already fielding questions from growers around the country as well as in Maine. Both of these new potato varieties are very promising. This type of result is what makes this partnership truly advantageous for the future of our industry.”

The MPB is currently exploring licensing options for Easton and will be making Sebec available to growers interested the variety with a license agreement for production.  Anyone interested in either variety should contact the MPB at (207) 769-5061.

Nationally, 13 percent of the domestic potato crop become potato chips, 35 percent become frozen fries, and 28 percent are sold fresh. The average American eats 126 pounds of potatoes each year, according to the USDA.

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