With a global population now just north of eight billion people, the agriculture industry will be called on more to feed people across the planet.  One of those areas that can help farmers meet those needs, said Christ Voigt, is continued research and development, not only of commodities, but of technology to make the farming process more efficient.  The Executive Director of the Washington state Potato Commission says when it comes to the commodities themselves, new varieties will be the key in addressing several of the large-scale challenges of feeding that many people.


“We need varieties that are resistant to different pests and different diseases.  And from a resource standpoint it lessens our footprint.  You know if we don't have to spray for an insecticide or a disease, that that's great.  If it's just inherently natural resistance built in the potato that's what we want.”


But, Voigt pointed out that doing that research is challenging, which makes their relationship with Washington State University, the University of Idaho, Oregon State University and USDA all the more important.  He added many people don’t appreciate that a potato is a tetraploid, making research efforts even more challenging.


“Which means there's lots of chromosomes that we have to worry about, [it’s] actually more complicated than the human.  You know it's actually harder to breed a potato than it is humans.  So the analogy I always use, if you're trying to come up with the perfect potato, you would literally take a billion dice, throw them up in the air, and it all have to lay in Yahtzee right it all have to be the same.  And it's so hard, but we think that with increased technologies, there's a lot in the way of DNA markers that we're learning about, that we're able to find resistance and maybe some natural occurring potatoes, and we're able to breed them together to get new varieties that that'll be able to help us out.”



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