Potato mutants: Useless freaks or precious gems?

Mutations are naturally occurring phenomena in all living organisms. Most mutations are harmful in the organisms in which they occur. In seed-propagated crops, such harmful mutations – “freaks” – are often lost in the cycle of sexual reproduction and selection. Since the potato is commercially propagated by vegetative means, most mutations (also known as “sports”) that occur in the potato will be maintained. This can either be a bane or a blessing depending on the nature of the mutations. Some major potato cultivars have arisen as result of spontaneous mutation. Mutations can affect many different traits, but many mutations are not easily recognized. The most famous mutant potato cultivar is Russet Burbank, a russeted variant that arose from the smooth-skinned Burbank’s Seedling that was selected by Luther Burbank in 1874. More