“We are looking at new varieties annually through our breeding program at Colorado State University,” said Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Monte Vista-based Colorado Potato Administrative Committee.
“The focus is to develop new varieties with better nutrition and flavor for consumers that are also better for growers in terms of higher yields and needing fewer inputs,” he said.
David Holm, a professor in the Colorado State University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, said three new varieties have recently been named.
The masquerade variety is a purple and white bicolor variety with light yellow flesh, Holm said.
“It’s getting quite a bit of reception in terms of the specialty markets. It has good flavor attributes and the novel aspect of its coloring,” he said.
The variety was offered in the Burpee seed catalog this year, and Holm said consumers were pleased with it.
The mercury russet is an early maturing variety with a lot of larger potatoes earlier in the season.
Hold says the name mercury is to indicate its speed, referencing the Roman messenger god.
“We had some growers involved in selecting the name,” Holm said.
The third new variety, the crestone russet, is named for the Crestone Peak.
Holm said the university used this name on another variety in the past although it never really took off.
“This is a high-yielding potato with a high percentage on No. 1s,” he said.
Holm said there is minimal planting of these new varieties this year, which is normal.
“It’s not a lot of acres but that is how new cultivars start off,” he said.
There was just over 200 seed acres planted of these varieties this year, which doesn’t include any acres grown for fresh consumption.
Still, there’s a market for new potato varieties in the San Luis valley.
“It all depends on the growers and some are more innovative. Seed growers especially want to be ahead of the curve. Others just want something different,” Holm said.
The masquerade variety, especially, is one that growers may be excited about in terms of offering something new and exciting.
“They look at the potato and see the potential for marketing it,” Holm said.
Jed Ellithorpe, a partner in Aspen Produce LLC, Center, Colo., said the company has worked with some “non-norkotah” varieties for the past four years or so.
“We’re stepping into some new varieties now,” he said.
They have seen smoother textures, and better cooking characteristics, with good results in retail and foodservice outlets, according to Ellithorpe.
“These have a more consistent size profile, and they cook better. Some store really well, as well, and we don’t see the surface defects we can see with the norkotah,” he said.
These varieties are just different than the norkotah variety of russet, but Ellithorpe says the company also grows red potatoes.
Holm said growers might be interested in non-norkotah varieties to avoid some of the common issues that variety can have.
Still, the norkotah tends to size early, which is a benefit.
“It can have some disease issues, so when people talk about non-norkotah varieties, they likely want some of those attributes but to get away from some of the weaknesses,” he said.