NCCC_old215: Potato Breeding and Genetics Technical Committee

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

NCCC_old215: Potato Breeding and Genetics Technical Committee

Duration: 10/01/2017 to 09/30/2022

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Potato production in the North Central US is vital to the regional economy and plays an important role in the national supply of both fresh and stored potatoes.  In 2015, the four states in the North Central Region accounted for 22% of the total harvested acres in the U.S.: 82,000 acres in ND, 63,000 in WI, 41,000 in MN, and 46,000 in MI (NASS, 2015).  The farm-gate value of the 2015 production was estimated at $258 million for ND, $257 million for WI, $170 million for MN, and $189 million for MI, for a total value of $870 million (NASS, 2015).  The immediate stakeholders include potato producers, but also seed producers, fresh market packers, and processors of frozen products, including fries and chips. 

Potato consumers in the upper Midwest are also key stakeholders in potato cultivar development efforts, as the improved cultivars resulting from this research contribute directly to their diet.  The US Census Bureau estimated the combined population of MI, WI, MN, ND and SD at nearly 23 million people in 2014 (US Census Bureau 2014a) and the same agency estimated that nearly 20 million consumers live in the large metropolitan centers within the upper Midwest US food shed (Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids) (US Census Bureau 2014b).  Therefore, from the local food standpoint, improvements to cultivars grown in the upper Midwest will have a major impact on the diets of residents in the upper Midwest potato production regions.  Further, the impact of fresh potatoes on this population is very high.  The USDA-ERS reports that potato consumption in 2013 was 83 pounds per person and half of the consumed potatoes were prepared from fresh stock USDA-ERS 2015). USDA certified organic production is currently very low.  According to the USDA-NASS in 2011, 1.2% of the potato crop was grown on certified organic land.  Although this level of production is well above that for industrial and feed crops like corn (0.26%) and soybean (0.17%), it is substantially less than that for other directly-consumed crops like dry bean (2.38%) and carrot (14.35%) (USDA-ERS, 2011). 

Changes in climate, disease pressure, consumer preference, production economics, and environmental regulations require continual innovation in the potato industry to remain successful and to ensure environmental and economic sustainability;  plant breeding plays an important role in helping to meet these evolving demands.  In 2001, the North Central breeding effort created a collaboration among four established breeding programs at the land-grant universities of MI, MN, ND, and WI, creating a regional center of excellence for potato breeding and innovative ideas for breeding, germplasm enhancement and genomics. The four breeding programs are joined by an extensive group of collaborators at their home institutions, through stakeholder funding and at USDA-ARS facilities, such as the Vegetable Crops Research Unit (Madison, WI) and the Potato Research Worksite (East Grand Forks, MN).  In addition, the North Central breeding team collaborates with more than 50 potato researchers nationwide for the evaluation of potential varieties and research collaborations through USDA/ARS cooperative agreements and other national grants.

Public breeding is the cornerstone of potato variety development in North America. There exists only one private potato breeding effort in the US and it focuses only on the chip-processing market.  NCCC-215 plays an important role in the success of varietal breeding by providing a forum for collaborative research, coordinating regional varietal testing and facilitating the exchange of germplasm and research ideas. North Central breeding programs have developed 2 of the 10 leading varieties grown in the US. This regional project also provides an important vehicle for project leaders, graduate students, other researchers and industry representatives to become familiar with leading edge technology in the development of materials and techniques for potato breeding and genetics. Important advances in potato genetics have emerged from this regional effort. Some notable efforts include the development of breeding strategies enabling the use of the genetic diversity available in wild potato relatives; germplasm collection, systematics, and preservation; genetic mapping of important traits; integration of transgenic approaches in genetic improvement; SNP array technology development and utilization; diploid potato breeding; and the genetic understanding of numerous resistance and quality traits of potato (i.e. late blight, Verticillium wilt, soft rot, Colorado potato beetle, cold sweetening resistance and specific gravity). NCCC-215 also provides the foundation for building strong research relationships (e.g. SolCAP, SCRI-acrylamide, SCRI-virus, Potatoes USA National Chip Processing Trials) within the region that will foster positive collaborative research efforts in the future.


  1. Provide a forum for multidisciplinary idea exchange and discussion of current research topics in potato breeding and genetics and offer training opportunities to graduate students.
  2. Actively coordinate the potato breeding and genetics research programs within the quad state region (Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin) to enhance variety development efforts. This includes carrying out disease resistance, insect resistance and quality evaluations to take advantage of the strengths (including pest and stress screening) and expertise of each state's research programs.
  3. Create a setting for industry personnel and North Central breeders and agronomists to report and discuss variety trial results conducted in the North Central region.

Procedures and Activities

The committee meets annually at a site in the Midwest (usually Chicago). The organization of the meeting is such that one day is focused on variety trials and variety releases, while a second day is devoted to potato breeding and genetics research. Any participant is allowed to give a presentation on one or both days. Graduate students and post docs are encouraged to present and discuss their research findings. This provides a good training opportunity, allowing them to prepare and give a presentation, and giving them a chance to participate in discussions throughout the meeting. During the meeting, time is devoted to discussing the needs of breeders for disease and quality evaluations and determining the resources available to address those needs. Discussions on developing and strengthening collaborations on projects of interest across the programs, including the development of jointly funded projects, will also be a focus.  This may entail the scheduling of conference calls during the year to help facilitate these interactions.

Meeting organizers encourage attendance by grower and industry representatives. Dr. John Bamberg, director of NRSP-6, and at least one from his staff attends the meeting. In addition, potato breeders from across the U.S. and Canada (North Carolina, New York, Idaho, Maine, Iowa, Nebraska and New Brunswick) are attending, giving presentations, and participate in the discussions.  

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Coordinate the quad state (Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) breeding and genetics research program to enhance variety development efforts.We currently coordinate agronomic trials for the chip-processing and table markets as well as disease testing. Breeding programs also share and discuss breeding program management for the purposes of improving efficiency. Naming and releases of new varieties are also reported, and an ultimate impact of the work is to release varieties that are successfully utilized by the industry.
  • Through participation of a diversity of potato researchers (breeders, geneticists, molecular biologists, plant pathologists, and agronomists) from the North Central, Western, and Northeast regions and Canada, provide a forum for multidisciplinary idea exchange and discussion of current research topics and offer training opportunities for graduate students.
  • Provide a broad assessment of advanced breeding germplasm by developing a series of disease, insect, and quality evaluations that utilize the presence of pest populations and abiotic stressors, in addition to the expertise of each state's research programs. We also share DNA-based screening methods to enhance early generation selection across the breeding programs.
  • Develop new breeding methods such as genomics-based breeding, diploid breeding with exotic germplasm andgermplasm and introgression of self compatibility to create diploid F1 hybrid breeding methods. This will assist in the production of new germplasm and, eventually varieties, as well as provide tools to assist in understanding more fundamental aspects of potato genetics.
  • Through a central meeting location and an appropriate meeting format, create an environment to educate industry personnel about variety trial results conducted in the North Central region.
  • Development of joint research proposals that integrate the expertise of each of the different programs.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

The NCCC84/NCCC215 meeting format has traditionally focused on reporting and discussion of research on a state-by-state basis. To make the results presented at the meeting attractive to industry clientele, the meeting is divided into one day of variety reports (from all states) and another day of breeding and genetic research (from all states). In this manner the results presented have a more direct impact on the potato industry. Graduate students and post-docs are encouraged to participate in discussions and present their research accomplishments. Meeting organizers encourage attendance by grower and industry representatives, however each state potato organization holds yearly winter research meetings to report and discuss annual research advances.  The national potato industry also holds an industry-based expo. Currently we are getting industry attendance from the national and state potato organizations and from some of the chip-processors and chip-processing growers.

Information of interest to the potato industry will also be distributed to Extension educators and specialists for incorporation into their educational programs.



The recommended Standard Governance for multistate research activities include the election of a Chair, a Chair-elect, and a Secretary. All officers are to be elected for at least two-year terms to provide continuity. Administrative guidance is provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a NIFA Representative.

Literature Cited

National Agricultural Statistics Service. 2015. Statistics by State (, accessed April 11, 2015). USDA, Washington,D.C.

US Census Bureau.  2014a. Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014.  Retrieved 23 March 2016.

US Census Bureau.  2014b. Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014.   2014 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2016.

USDA-ERS.  2015.  Most commonly consumed vegetables among US consumers, 2013.  Retrieved 23 March 2016.  48.4 pounds per person of potatoes in 2013 and half of the consumed potatoes were prepared from fresh stock. 

USDA-ERS.  Table 3--Certified organic and total U.S. acreage, selected crops and livestock, 1995-2011.  2011.  Retrieved 23 March 2016.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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