US: Researchers seek super spuds amid new strains of potatoes

A program that teamed up three universities and three agricultural commissions in 1984 has recently experienced its fourth great success with a newly bred potato that seems to be superior in numerous ways to the old gold standard. The Northwest Potato Variety Development Program — which includes researchers from Washington State University, the University of Idaho, Oregon State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service — has introduced about 45 varieties since its inception, including four since 2000 that have rocketed to stardom — or its closest equivalent in the potato world — as McDonald’s french fries. WSU potato researchers Rick Knowles and Mark Pavek are principle investigators for the program and have been involved in it since 1999 and 2004, respectively. The men receive samples from the three states and evaluate them for culinary and storage qualities. If they pass the tests, they are named, grown and released into the world — and sometimes they are noticed by McDonald’s. More