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Features Production Research
Creating the Yukon Gem


January 19, 2010
By The Canadian Press

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January
18, 2010 – When the United States Department of Agriculture wanted to create a
better potato, it turned to the hardy Yukon Gold variety.

January
18, 2010 – When the United States Department of Agriculture wanted to create a
better potato, it turned to the hardy Yukon Gold variety.

This
week, Idaho research geneticist Richard Novy, who breeds potatoes for the
department, unveiled the offspring of the territory’s famous spud.

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The
Yukon Gem, as it’s called, is a hybrid of the Yukon Gold and a Scottish variety
known as Brodick.

“The
idea is to bring into the progeny enhanced characteristics of both,” Novy said.
“And the Yukon Gold is a very exceptional variety, so it makes sense to use it
as a parent.”

Novy
is trying to develop potato varieties and corresponding seed collections with
disease and pest resistance, reduced sugar concentration, enhanced nutritional
value and a reduced need for water and fertilizer.

He
said the Yukon Gem has the smooth yellow skin, pink eyes and pale flesh of the
Yukon Gold but has taken on the robust character of the Brodick.

The
Gem is also resistant to common scab, late blight and potato virus Y.

Commercial
growers will have an opportunity to get a limited supply of Yukon Gem seeds
this spring, Novy said, but it could be several years before home growers can
get their hands on the seeds.

While
named after the territory, the Yukon Gold was not originally bred as a northern
potato, said local farmer Steve Mackenzie-Grieve.

“But
it’s one of the few potatoes for us that gets a good size,” he said, adding
that he’s keen to plant some Yukon Gem on 30 acres of spud budding ground at
his farm north of Whitehorse.

While
Mackenzie-Grieve called the Yukon Gold the best potato for the territory’s
short growing season, he said it’s a poor yielding potato.

“There’s
not many but they grow quite large.”

It’s
an attribute Mackenzie-Grieve counts on for his annual harvest of between 350
and 400 tonnes of potatoes, many of which are marketed locally.

He
said he’ll wait to see how the Yukon Gem fairs in the territory, but added that
better yielding potatoes may not have a chance to grow bigger in the Yukon’s
short summers.

“Our
farming here is unique, and conditions are not the same as down south – our
temperature, our daylight. Some potatoes do well here and some just don’t, so
we have to be very specific in what we grow.”


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