Lethbridge (Rural Roots Canada) – What’s not to love about potatoes? 

The starchy, versatile vegetable has many uses. You can boil them, mash them, and stick them in a stew for starters; the possibilities are endless. 

But how do companies and researchers decide which potatoes go into development for chipping, french fries, and fresh market? 

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The answer to those questions, and others, is part of a potato research project at the University of Lethbridge, in collaboration with Lethbridge College, which will test more than 100 different potato varieties to see which ones work best and for what purpose. 

Michelle Konschuh, an irrigation crop scientist at the university, explains what they’re looking for. 

“We’re looking at nitrogen levels and determining if the potatoes can be grown with less nitrogen and get the same yield and quality.”

Konschuh says researchers are working closely with all facets of the industry.

“With the nitrogen levels, it’s mainly driven by processors looking for more sustainable practices. They’re encouraging producers to grow differently. But producers grow what they can sell. The processors are the ones that select new varieties,” she says. 

So, have the spuds had any success so far? Konschuh shares one example that has shown results. 

“One variety, evaluated by a local seed producer, was picked up by Old Dutch foods. Now, that chipping variety is grown in Alberta, Manitoba, North Dakota and Europe,” she notes. 

“It’s an excellent chipping potato variety, and it stores well. They can make chips out of it until August of the following year.”

Konschuh says you can find the research trial results on the Potato Growers of Alberta website.