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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's potato varieties have something for everyone

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Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

With names like AAC Poppy, AAC Glossy, and AAC Red Viola – today's marketplace for spuds is no longer as simple as "you say PO-TAY--TOE, I say PO-TAH-TOE."

These potatoes are among the more than 30 varieties developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) that are currently under licence by the Canadian industry for sale to domestic and international markets.

The process of identifying potato selections that have the potential to deliver on industry needs takes six years to complete before they are shared with the potato industry through AAFC's Accelerated Release Program. Only a few star performers make the cut each year out of more than 100,000 candidates. Ten to fifteen of the best of the best selections developed by the AAFC breeding program are unveiled to industry during a special annual Potato Release Open House event, held simultaneously at different locations across the country. If industry participants like what they see, they can pay a small handling fee to conduct their own trials to evaluate local adaptation and market potential of the selection as a possible commercial variety.

Head potato breeder, Dr. Benoit Bizimungu, says developing new varieties takes years and there are many factors to consider both for industry and for the consumer.

"The potato industry is looking for varieties that are resistant to drought and disease but still have a high yield and the right shape and look for their particular market. On the other hand, consumers are looking for more diversity and nutritional benefits."

- Benoit Bizimungu, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

AAFC’s Accelerated Release Program has been active since 1998, with close to 200 selections released since the program’s inception. As new varieties are developed, past potato strains are retired in favour of newer better varieties, ensuring that Canadian potato growers always have access to the best spuds on the market.

Varieties include potatoes grown specifically for industry processing (French fries, potato chips, hash browns, etc.) and as fresh produce for the consumer market. AAFC breeders have also developed a number of varieties that have coloured flesh and/or skin – from pinks, to purples, and golds; as well as mini novelty potatoes known as creamers that have become increasingly popular with home cooks and restaurants.

This year’s Potato Release Open House will be held on February 14, 2018, in Fredericton, New Brunswick; Guelph, Ontario; and Lethbridge, Alberta.

Key facts

Photo gallery

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's head potato breeder, Dr. Benoit Bizimungu, holds a potato with pink flesh at the Potato Release Open House in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
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Some of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's potato selections on display.
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One of the French fry selections to be unveiled at the 2018 Potato Selection Release Open House.

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