Knowing Your Roots

Posts tagged ‘UW-Department of Plant Pathology’

How do potatoes get to your holiday table? – It all begins with the seed!

Blog 7

Potatoes, we love them, particularly at this time of year. Thanksgiving is close, and it just would not be the same without those creamy mashed potatoes to accompany your turkey and cranberries. Did you know that Wisconsin ranks 3rd in US potato production?  Did you know that the potatoes you are enjoying actually began life anywhere from 5-8 years before they got to your plate?  Probably not, but during the next few blog posts we would like to introduce you the exciting journey that your potato takes from a lab in Madison, to isolated farms in pristine Northwest Wisconsin and even a trip to Hawaii for a lucky few. This is the process needed to produce the disease-free seed tubers that potato growers must plant to meet all your culinary potato needs.  We hope these next blog posts will help illuminate this fascinating journey.

Potatoes are not grown from actual seeds, but come from daughter tubers (seed pieces) that carry all the traits of the mother plant. To be certain that plants are disease-free, true to variety and carry only the traits such as color, texture and taste that consumers desire, the journey starts in labs on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.  The Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Program, the first of its kind in the US, is funded by Wisconsin potato growers and directed  by Dr. Amy Charkowski of the UW-Department of Plant Pathology. Here, disease-free potato plants representing hundreds of varieties and characteristics are maintained. In the winter, tiny tissue slivers are grown into small plants in sterile test tubes. These tiny plants, the forerunners of your favorite baked or mashed potato, are then cut into even smaller pieces and grown into plantlets that have roots and leaves of their own.  Every spring, thousands of these plantlets are driven from Madison to an isolated UW Elite Seed farm in northern Wisconsin, close to Rhinelander. Once there, they are placed in protected hydroponic greenhouses, where they can grow over the summer and produce hundreds of pea to marble-sized mini-tubers, which represent the future of the potato industry. Over 400,000 mini-tubers are produced in Wisconsin using this method every year.   (more…)

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Thoughts for Food: Potato Late Blight

Blog 26Do you know what caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s?

Did you know these problems caused massive hunger, distress, and resulted in mass emigration from the region for many years?

Did you also know that this disease can still be a concern if not properly managed?

And that the fungus which caused the Irish potato famine is still attacking!  It can cause serious problems for potato, tomato, eggplants and other solanaceous crops today.  Phytophthora infestans (appropriate name since it “infests”) is the cause of potato late blight; it is a fast moving, community disease, which growers (as well as home gardeners and garden center managers) must take seriously and manage properly to ensure a healthy, adequate food supply.    (more…)

Making the Perfect Potato: The Incredible Journey

Blog 12 - Baked
When you are enjoying a delicious baked potato, take a minute to reflect on where it came from. There is a pretty good chance it was grown in Wisconsin, which ranks 3rd in US potato production.  However, the journey it took to become good enough to get to your plate is a fascinating one. (more…)

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