NCCC215: Potato Breeding and Genetics Technical Committee

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

NCCC215: Potato Breeding and Genetics Technical Committee

Duration: 10/01/2022 to 09/30/2027

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

Potato production in the North Central US is vital to the regional and national economy, both fresh and from long-term storage. In 2020, the four states in the North Central Region (NC) accounted for 24.9% of the total harvested acres in the US: 71,500 acres in ND, 69,500 in WI, 41,500 in MN, and 47,000 in MI (NASS, 2021).  The farm-gate value of the 2020 production was estimated at $338.6 million for WI, $223.4 million for ND, $194.5 million for MN, and $200.4 million for MI, for a total value of $956.9 million (NASS, 2021). These farm-gate figures do not fully account for the economic impact of potato, since additional value is created by other entities in the supply chain, such as fresh market packing operations and frozen fry and chip processors. The industries that support potato production also contribute to economic sustainability in the region (e.g., fertilizer and pesticide applicators, crop scouts and consultants, irrigation and farm equipment, storage support). The full economic impact of the raw material produced in our region extends across the entire US due to the national distribution networks of the fresh market and processing industries. 

Potato consumers within the upper Midwest region of the US 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 23.3 million people in 2020 (US Census Bureau 2020) and the same agency estimated that nearly 22.7 million consumers lived in the large metropolitan centers within the upper Midwest US food shed (Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids) (US Census Bureau 2019).  Therefore, from the local food standpoint, improvements to cultivars grown in the upper Midwest will have a major impact on the diets of residents near 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 2019 reached 49.4 pounds per person and half of the consumed potatoes were prepared from fresh stock (USDA-ERS 2020). USDA certified organic production is currently very low.  According to the UDSA-NAS 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, 2013). 

Successful development of new potato varieties is challenging because of autotetraploid genetics and the large number of traits involved, including many types of disease resistance, yield, size distribution, appearance, processing quality, and storability. We will continue to use proven methods of phenotypic selection to make progress on these traits and release improved varieties. The NC region’s breeding programs provide leadership for, and are major contributors to, the National Chip Processing Trial and National Fry Processing Trial. Furthermore, the NC programs are international leaders with respect to molecular breeding in potato, which we are applying with increasing success to accelerate the rate of genetic gain. In response to the challenges of breeding an autotetraploid crop, we are also investing in diploid potato breeding to create a more efficient breeding system. 

Changes in climate, disease pressure, consumer preference, production economics, and environmental regulations require continual innovation in the potato industry to remain successful, and plant breeding plays an important role in helping to meet these evolving demands.  Formed in 2001, the NC breeding effort is a collaboration between four well-established potato breeding programs at the land-grant universities of MI, MN, ND, and WI. Collectively, the four PDs on this project (Douches-MSU, Thompson-NDSU, Endelman-UW, Shannon-UMN) have over 50 years of experience with potato breeding and variety development. The PDs also collaborate with a number of other specialists (e.g., agronomy, physiology, pathology, and entomology) at their home institutions and affiliated USDA-ARS facilities, such as the Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, WI, and Potato Research Worksite in 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.  These collaborations are reflected in the competitive research grants obtained, authorship of peer-reviewed publications of researchers and in the parents and grandparents used in varieties evaluated and commercially released in North America.

Public breeding is the cornerstone of potato variety development in North America. There exists only two private potato breeding efforts in the US and they focus on the chip-processing and frozen processing market.  NCCC215 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 5 of the 15 leading potato 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, and materials and techniques being developed in potato breeding and genetics. Important advances in potato genetics have emerged from this regional effort. Some notable efforts include development of breeding strategies enabling the utilization of the genetic diversity available in the Solanum species; germplasm collection, systematics, preserving and cataloging; 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). NCCC215 also provides the foundation for building strong research relationships (e.g. SolCAP, SCRI-acrylamide, SCRI-virus, SCRI-Potatoes2.0, Potatoes USA National Chip Processing Trials, Potatoes USA National Fry 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, post docs and research staff.
  2. Actively coordinate the potato breeding and genetics research programs within quad state region (Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin) to enhance variety development efforts. This includes carrying out disease, insect and quality evaluations that take advantage of the strengths and expertise of each state's research programs.
  3. Create a setting for producers and 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, post docs and research staff 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 will be devoted to discussing the needs of breeders for disease and quality evaluations and determining the resources available to address those needs. Discussions on developing research proposals 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.  Attendance can now be conducted as a virtual option.  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

  • Coordination of 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 adopted and 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 expertise of each state's research programs. We also share DNA-based screening methods to enhance early generation selection across the breeding programs.
  • Development of new breeding methods such as genomics-based breeding, diploid breeding with exotic germplasm 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.
  • Development of joint research proposals that integrate the expertise of each of the different programs.
  • Through a central meeting location, virtual access, and an appropriate meeting format, create an environment to educate industry personnel about variety trial results conducted in the North Central region.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

The NCCC84 meeting format has traditionally been a 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 will have a more direct impact upon 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 holds a national chip potato breeding meeting following the NCCC215 meeting (in Chicago) and also holds an industry-based expo that moves around the country. 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 includes 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 will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a NIFA Representative.

Literature Cited

National Agricultural Statistics Service. 2021. Statistics by State (, accessed April 2, 2021). USDA, Washington, D.C.

US Census Bureau.  2019.  Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019.   2019 Resident Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. Retrieved 9 November 2021.

US Census Bureau.  2020.  Table P1. Decennial Census Total Population Data.,27,38,46,55&tid=DECENNIALPL2020.P1&hidePreview=true.  Retrieved 9 November 2021.

USDA-ERS.  2020.  Most commonly consumed vegetables among US consumers, 2019.  Retrieved 9 November 2021.  49.4 pounds per person of potatoes in 2019 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.  2013.  Retrieved 9 November 2021.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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