Researchers are trying to make potatoes that are resistant to climate change
Bangor, Maine University of Maine researchers are trying to produce potatoes that can better withstand rising temperatures as climate changes.
Higher temperatures and an extended growing season can lead to quality problems and disease, Gregory Porter, professor of crop environment and management, told the Bangor Daily News.
“Climate change predictions are for heavy rainfall, and potatoes don’t tolerate floods or wet conditions for long without other quality issues,” Porter said. “If we are to continue to successfully produce potatoes in Maine, we need to be able to produce varieties that can withstand change.”
All over the world, research is underway with the aim of mitigating damage to crops. A study published by NASA this month suggests that climate change could affect corn and wheat production, reducing yields of both, by 2030.
Maine pulled off a remarkable potato crop thanks to the success of Caribou russet, developed by UMaine researchers. But Porter fears that even this variety does not tolerate as much heat as necessary to withstand the future effects of climate change.
Pests are another factor. Jim Dale, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said the Colorado potato beetle and disease-spreading aphids have thrived with climate change.
Reproduction apparently small changes such as hairy leaves that make it more difficult for insects to move around in the plant could reduce pest destruction as well as the need for pesticides, he said.
Breeding such characteristics in potatoes is a long process of pollination of different varieties of potatoes.
The process is in full swing.
They are in the testing phase of research now at locations across the United States. Potatoes in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida experience high temperature stress.
“It takes 10 years of selection after that initial cross-pollination, and it may take two to five years before there is enough commercial evaluation to release a new potato variety,” Porter said.
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