CENTER — A detailed tour of the San Luis Valley Research Center showed how they are developing new varieties of potato seed and fulfilling the needs and desires of consumers.
The Research Center is located just outside of Center, on the corner of County Road 9N and U.S. Highway 285. It is dedicated to the research and development of crops in the San Luis Valley and is run by staff from Colorado State University.
Currently, they are growing and researching Russet, Reds, Yellows and some specialty potatoes such as fingerlings and purple-fleshed varieties.
Each crossbred variety is tested for at least 8 years before going to growers to provide feedback and possible use in commercial applications.
Several new varieties are being developed including a darker, yellow-fleshed variety, that contains more of the antioxidant carotene.
Carotene is a yellow-orange pigment that is found in yellow-orange vegetables such as carrots. Carotene is converted into vitamin A when eaten and is important for eye health and improves immune cell number and activity.
The darker, yellow-fleshed potato is being tested and bred to increase this nutrient and create a better and healthier product for consumers. This is just one of the varieties that are being created at the Research Center.
They share their discoveries and seed throughout the United States and Canada with partnerships with other universities, with the goal to provide a superior potato for consumers and companies.
According to Dr. David Holm of the San Luis Valley Research Center, “Anything that is selected goes on for further research, then we grow more.”
Each variety is grown and crossbred to create characteristics that are needed for their commercial application. These applications can be wide-ranging, such as creating a superior potato to make French fries or if a particular variety can be stored for long periods. While this year’s harvest is complete, the research continues year-round.