BANGOR, Maine (AP) – Researchers at the University of Maine are trying to produce potatoes that are more resistant to warming temperatures as the climate changes.
Warming temperatures and an extended growing season can lead to quality issues and disease, Gregory Porter, professor of ecology and crop management, told the Bangor Daily News.
âClimate change forecasts are events of heavier precipitation, and potatoes do not tolerate flooding or wet conditions for a long time without having other quality issues,â Porter said. âIf we want potatoes to continue to be produced successfully in Maine, we need to be able to produce varieties that are resistant to change. “
Around the world, research to mitigate crop damage is ongoing. A NASA study published this month suggests that climate change could affect corn and wheat production, reducing yields of both, as early as 2030.
Maine is emerging from a record potato crop thanks in part to the success of the Caribou russet, which was developed by researchers at UMaine. But Porter fears that even this variety may not be as heat tolerant as needed to withstand the future effects of climate change.
Parasites are another factor. The Colorado potato beetle and disease-spreading aphids have thrived with climate change, said Jim Dill, a pest control specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Breeding seemingly minor changes like hairier leaves that prevent insects from moving on the plant can reduce pest destruction and also the need for pesticides, he said.
The selection of such characteristics in potatoes is a long process of cross-pollination of different varieties of potatoes.
The process is well underway.
They are currently in a research test phase at sites across the United States. Test potatoes in Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida test for stress at high temperatures.
âIt takes 10 years of selection after this initial cross-pollination, and it can take two to five years before sufficient commercial evaluation has taken place to launch a new potato variety,â Porter said.
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