Breeding Potatoes for More Calcium

Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato—and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Neither consumers at grocery stores nor chip and fry manufacturers want these low-calcium defects. In addition to the obvious cosmetic issues, these potatoes are more likely to rot.

Most farmed varieties of potatoes have naturally low levels of calcium. So researchers at the USDA-ARS and University of Wisconsin-Madison, including Shelley Jansky, John Bamberg and Jiwan Palta, looked to wild potatoes. Their purpose: to breed new potato cultivars with high calcium levels.

Many wild potato relatives are still present in South America. Their presence means growers’ potato plants in that region often exchange genes with wild species.

“That’s a way they continue to evolve as the climate changes or as disease and pest patterns change,” says Jansky. “But in the U.S. we have removed our potatoes from that environment. We have to breed new genes in from these wild relatives when we want to improve our cultivars.”

These wild relatives are an invaluable resource for scientists across the country.

“If you go down there and drive along the roadside you can see these weedy, wild plants growing along the roads and fields,” says Jansky. “Whenever we have looked for any trait in wild potato species, we have been able to find it.”

And so it was with searching for a high-calcium potato. The team found a wild potato with almost seven times as much calcium as typically grown varieties. The next job was to isolate the calcium trait. Jansky and her colleagues interbred the high- and low-calcium potatoes. The resulting generations showed a molecular marker—a pattern in the plant’s natural DNA. This pattern led researchers to the plant’s calcium trait.

“Finding this marker will allow us—and other breeding programs—to make faster progress in breeding potato plants with high tuber calcium content,” says Jansky. “This has been difficult and time-consuming in the past. You have to grow all the populations, harvest tubers, and then analyze the tubers for the trait you are looking at—in this case, tuber calcium levels. And that’s a long, laborious process.”

A typical breeding program grows and assesses up to 100,000 seedlings every year. It takes 10 to 15 years to release a particular variety of crop plant. However, the process simplifies with known molecular markers.

“We can collect DNA from seedlings and check for these molecular markers,” says Yong Suk Chung, the first author of the study. “If you have the marker present, then you select those seedlings and save a tremendous amount of time and labor.”

Source:  www.potatogrower.com

 

2016 West Madison Field Trials Results

The West Madison Ag Research Station display gardens contained more than 270 annual and 62 perennial flower cultivars that were evaluated monthly for the Commercial Flower Growers of Wisconsin, Proven Winners, and Ball Horticultural Company. Additionally, more than 61 All-America Selection cultivars were on display in 2016. Vegetables included 12 garlic varieties, eight squash and melon varieties, 11 peppers, six tomatoes, and a few herbs. Under research by the University of Wisconsin’s Horticulture Department were 65 varieties of leafy greens/lettuces evaluated for heat tolerance during summer and cold tolerance in the late fall and 23 onion varieties screened for flavor by local chefs. Seedless table grapes were also evaluated for cold hardiness, vigor, and fruit production.

West Madison 2016 Field Days

The winter of 2015-2016 was relatively mild with the lowest temperature being only -10°F for one day in January. The growing season began warmly with 4 inches of rain (not snow) in March. Except for a brief three-hour dip to 30°F on May 16, it was a warm month with 12 days above 75°F. August and September were especially warm and humid. Rainfall was abundant and frequent (nearly every five days) from April through September, which reduced overhead irrigating to just two events. In July alone, the station received 8.25 inches of rain. With the plentiful rain and high dewpoints, there was increased incidences of fungal pathogens and bacterial disease, including many root rots (Phythium, Rhizoctonia) and Verticillium wilt on verbena. Many melons and squash rotted early. Bacterial wilt on cucumbers was widespread, as was Septoria on tomatoes. However, peppers produced well with harvest peaking in early September.

Several horticultural societies continue to participate in the University of Wisconsin trial gardens. The Wisconsin Peony Society solicited help from our visitors to evaluate its improved genetic collection of 50-cultivars, displayed and maintained at the gardens. The Wisconsin Daylily society promoted its cultivars and plant sale via the University of Wisconsin’s six well-managed nurseries containing nearly 300 cultivars. Likewise, hundreds benefited from a plant sale held at the station this spring by the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society, which included donated plants grown in the display gardens. The hydrangea collection at the University of Wisconsin trial gardens is now up to 23 cultivars, including both paniculata and macrophylla species.

New to the gardens since 2014 is the testing of the Darwin Perennial collection. These plants are monitored for winter survival, pest tolerance, flowering duration, and growth habit. In 2014, 22 cultivars from 10 genera were established. In 2015, 12 more cultivars from 7 genera were added. In 2016, another 15 cultivars from 8 genera were established. Also in the university’s evolving perennial trials was a chrysanthemum evaluation trial with the University of Minnesota. The objective was to evaluate the 20 cultivars for persistence over winter as well as floral quality and pyretherin levels.

Several faculty members used the gardens to promote special topics they wanted to publicly promote: Ceremonial tobacco for the Ojibwe tribe; Seven sisters, a traditional Mexican planting system that includes corn, beans, and squash, was established to highlight the symbiotic benefits that these three species provide when inter-planted; a pole bean breeding demonstration with 12 varieties with both living (corn and sorghum) and man-made trellises was new this year; Quinoa was planted in June and July to compare seed set on this plant that lacks heat tolerance; honey bee and bumble bee hives were set up near the gardens to promote pollinators and the importance of garden habitat for them.

 Top Performers

Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Silverberry’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Fuchsia Improved’
Petunia ‘Picasso in Purple’
Petunia ‘Vista Bubblegum’
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
Petunia ‘Surprise Magenta Halo’
Petunia ‘ColorRush Blue’
Petunia ‘Pretty Much Picasso’
Salvia ‘Black & Bloom’
Cyperus ‘Graceful Grasses Prince Tut’

Consumer Favorites

Cyperus ‘Graceful Grasses Prince Tut’
Angelonia ‘Angelface Super Pink’
Salvia ‘Black and Bloom’
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
Hydrangea ‘Limelight’

Source:  GreenhouseGrower.com

Department Personnel at WPT’s 2017 Garden Expo

Julie Dawson, Vegetable Specialist

Amy Freidig, Master Gardener Program

Elin Meliska, Allen Centennial Garden

Wisconsin Public Television’s Garden Expo, in its 24th year, was held February 10-12.  The warm weather invited 10’s of 1000’s to attend.  Horticulture staff who participated include Julie Dawson, Eileen Nelson, Madeline Wimmer, Amaya Atucha.  Also participating: Ben Futa, Elin Meliska and Abby Granite of the Allen Centennial Garden, Johanna Oosterwyk from The DC Smith Greenhouse, Mike Maddox, Susan Mahr and Amy Freidig of the Master Gardener Program.

Are you smarter than an Otter?

On November 23rd, Faculty Associate, Claudia Irene Calderon, and Postdoctoral Fellow, Shelby Ellison, organized a carrot tasting with 12 three to five year olds from the UW Preschool Lab Otter class. The event took place in the DC Smith Conservatory where the children tasted orange, purple, red, white, and yellow carrots and learned about how the carrot color translates into the nutritional benefit it can provide when eaten.

Many of the children were excited to taste the different colored carrots and a few appeared to favor the less traditional purple types. In addition to tasting, the Otters enjoyed carrot themed story time, were able to pick out vegetable stamps, and enjoyed exploring the DC Smith Conservatory. The children returned to the UW Preschool lab with more carrots to sample and a nutritional fact sheet to share with their families.

Photos by Florencia Bannoud

 

Potato industry commits $5M to support research

Sevie Kenyon

Madison — Wisconsin’s potato industry has had a strong, decades-long partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s potato researchers, one that has helped place Wisconsin among the top three potato-producing states in the nation. Now, in order to ensure the ongoing strength of this relationship, the industry has made a commitment to raise $5M over the next 10 years to support the university’s program.

“This support stems from the great value that our growers and our potato industry see in the University of Wisconsin-Madison research team and the related research facilities,” says Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA).

Continue Reading. . . .

Source: Wisconsin State Farmer, Nicole Miller, UW CALS author

Seed to Kitchen

Plant breeders partner with chefs for tastier produce

Have you noticed that more and more restaurants are featuring great-tasting, locally sourced foods on their menus? Now, through a UW–Madison horticulture initiative called “Seed to Kitchen,” chefs on the culinary cutting edge are working with plant breeders to grow produce with specific flavor characteristics their customers will love. –

Antique Apples

Autumn is just around the corner, and instead of lamenting the end of summer, many Wisconsinites embrace cooler weather with fall activities.

One favorite excursion around the state is apple picking, which goes hand-in-hand with cider, donuts and pie. Many Wisconsin pick-your-own orchards and farm stands showcase “antique” or “heirloom” apple varieties, which have been passed down through generations of growers after being found from a chance seedling. Antique apples can have unusual flavors, textures, and aromas, and usually come with an interesting back-story too. Many are of U.S. or even Wisconsin origins.

In recent years, antique or heirloom varieties have become more popular at farmers’ markets and pick-your-own orchards, as consumers are searching for apples that are essentially different from those offered by big supermarket chains. This search for a “different” kind of apple is not only driven by the lack of choice and poor quality of apples offered by superstores, but also by a change in consumer preferences that are a consequence of increasing interest and concern regarding where and how fruit is grown.

Many of these rarer varieties can be found at many Wisconsin orchards and local direct markets, but it may take a little searching to get past the rows of Honeycrisp. Hundreds of varieties of antique apples are available — this list is meant as a starting point only.

Gravenstein is one the first varieties to ripen in the apple season. It originated in Denmark in 1669. The fruit is irregularly shaped with broad red stripes and a sweet-tart flavor. It’s great for eating fresh, or for making into sauces or cider. Ripens late July to early August.

Northfield Beauty originated in Vermont in the early 1800s. The fruit is medium-large, with a tart flavor extremely well suited for pies and sauces. Ripens in late August.

Duchess of Oldenburg is a cold-hardy plant, producing tart red apples, best used for making pies or sauces but also good for eating. A great early-season options, it can be found even in the northern parts of Wisconsin. Originating in Russia in the 1700s, it is naturally resistant to many diseases, reducing the need for pesticides. Ripens in late August.

Chenango Strawberry was discovered in the eastern United States in the early 19th century, and is renowned for its rich apple flavor and aroma, and beautiful mottled appearance. The skin and flesh is soft and juicy. Ripens early September.

Summer Rambo is a tart, crisp, juicy apple that originated in France in the 1500s. The fruit is greenish-yellow with a red blush. It’s good for both eating and for sauces. Ripens in early September.

Holstein Cox has large fruit with an intense sweet/tart flavor with intense citrus and pineapple aroma, and is good for eating or cooking. It is a relative newcomer, being developed in Germany in the early 1900s. Ripens in early September.

Court Pendu Plat was first described in France in the 1600s, but is thought to have been brought there much earlier during the time of the Roman Empire. It has a dense texture, and balance of sweetness and acidity, making it excellent for cider and sauces, but also tasty fresh. Ripens in early September.

Wealthy makes a good eating apple with a mellow, sweet flavor. Having originated in Minnesota in 1868, it is very cold-hardy. Ripens in mid-September.

Pink Pearl is not only a novelty, with bright pink flesh underneath a smooth yellow skin, but is also a flavorful, tart, juicy and crisp apple. A suggested use is to make rosy-pink applesauce. This variety originated in California in the early 1900s. Ripens in mid-September.

Wolf River originated in central Wisconsin, and is an old-time favorite around the state. The large apples are primarily used for baking — supposedly one apple makes one pie! Ripens in late September.

Reinette Gris produces medium-sized sweet, crisp and dry fruit, with a red blush. The trees are very hardy and fruit keep well. It originated in France in the 1600s. Ripens in late September.

Egremont Russet, like other russetted apples, has lost popularity recently to the smooth shiny varieties generally showcased in grocery stores. However, despite its rough appearance, this variety is full of unique flavors, which have been described as nutty, smoky, or with anise undertones, which combined with a pear-like smooth texture makes for a one-of-a-kind apple. It originated in England in the 1800s. Ripens in late September to early October.

Northwestern Greening originated in Wisconsin in the late 1800s. It is the predominant apple-pie apple of the north, but is too tart for eating fresh. Ripens in October.

Arkansas Black is a deeply colored, crisp, and flavorful apple. For best flavor, store at least a month before eating; it can be stored up to eight months in refrigeration. Ripens in October.

Winesap is an old-timer favorite, with high sugar content, a crisp texture and deep red color. This variety originated in the US in the 1800s. Ripens in late October.

Newtown Pippin has a distinctive flavor, and firm, crisp flesh. The skin is light yellow-green with just a slight red blush. It was developed on Long Island, New York in the 1700s. This apple is excellent for eating fresh or for making cider. Ripens in late October.

Black Oxford produces a dark purple, almost black skinned fruit with tart, aromatic flesh. It originated in Oxford, Maine in the 1800s. The fruit keeps well in storage. Ripens in late October.

Source:  Wiscontext, September 23, 2016 http://www.wiscontext.org/picking-holstein-cox-and-other-antique-apples-wisconsin-orchards

Janet van Zoeren is a fruit crops associate with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Amaya Atucha is a fruit crop specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension and UW Fruit Program, and an assistant professor in the UW-Madison Department of Horticulture. This article is adapted from an item originally published in Wisconsin Fruit News, Volume 1, Issue 9, a publication of the Fruit Crops Team 

Breeding for Flavor

On a sticky weekday morning in August, a new restaurant called Estrellón (“big star” in Spanish) is humming with advanced prep and wine deliveries. All wood and tile and Mediterranean white behind a glass exterior, the Spanish-style eatery is the fourth venture of Madison culinary star Tory Miller. Opening is just three days away, and everything is crisp and shiny and poised.

Chef Miller takes a seat with colleagues Jonny Hunter of the Underground Food Collective 2016-09-13_8-47-52and Dan Bonanno of A Pig in a Fur Coat. The chefs are here to lend their highend taste buds to science, and they start to banter about tomato flavor. What are the key elements? How important are they relative to each other?

Despite their intense culinary dedication, these men rarely just sit down and eat tomatoes with a critical frame of mind. “I learned a lot about taste through this project,” says Hunter. “I really started thinking about how I defined flavor in my own head and how I experience it.”

This particular tasting was held last summer. And there have been many others like it over the past few years with Miller, Hunter, Bonanno and Eric Benedict BS’04, of Café Hollander.

The sessions are organized by Julie Dawson, a CALS/UW–Extension professor of horticulture who heads the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative (formerly called the Chef–Farmer–Plant Breeder Collaborative). Her plant breeding team from CALS will note the flavors and characteristics most valuable to the chefs. Triangulating this with feedback from select farmers, plant breeders will get one step closer to the perfect tomato. But not just any tomato: One bred for Upper Midwest organic growing conditions, with flavor vetted by some of our most discerning palates.

“We wanted to finally find a good red, round slicer, and tomatoes that look and taste like heirlooms but aren’t as finicky to grow,” says Dawson at the August tasting, referring to the tomato of her dreams. “We’re still not at the point where we have, for this environment, really exceptional flavor and optimal production characteristics.”

Nationwide, the tomato has played a symbolic role in a widespread reevaluation of our food system. The pale, hard supermarket tomatoes of January have been exhibit A in discussions about low-wage labor and food miles. Seasonally grown heirloom tomatoes have helped us understand how good food can be with a little attention to detail.

But that’s just the tip of the market basket, because Dawson’s project seeks to strengthen a middle ground—an Upper Midwest ground, actually—in the food system. With chefs, farmers and breeders working together, your organic vegetables should get tastier, hardier, more abundant and more local where these collaborations exist.

Please continue reading this story on the Grow magazine website.

Note: The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative is one of the projects that will be featured at the upcoming Horticulture Showcase on Thursday, Sept. 15, and there are still tickets available to a dinner event featuring the work of the Collaborative that will take place immediately after the showcase.

 

Farm to Flavor dinner will feature plant breeding efforts

Farm to Flavor is a signature dinner experience and celebration of Wisconsin food that will be held on Thursday, September 15, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Mendota Room inside Dejope Hall. It brings together the plant breeders, farmers, and chefs responsible for creating a new local cuisine. These co-creators encompass the motto that food is made at the intersection of seed, farm, and kitchen.

Taste the results of collaborative plant breeding in small plates from Madison’s highly acclaimed chefs including, Jonny Hunter of Underground Food Collective, Tory Miller of I’Etoile, Dan Bonnano of Pig in a Fur Coat and Eric Benedict of Café Hollander. Guest speaker Ken Greene of the Hudson Valley Seed Library will kick off a dinner discussion about the intersection of crop varieties, culture and art. Questions about plant breeding, farming and food systems are welcomed throughout the dinner.

Prior to the dinner, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., a free plant-breeding showcase held at Allen Centennial Garden will give attendees the opportunity to meet leading plant breeders responsible for developing fruits and vegetables adapted for Wisconsin’s organic farms. While sampling the results, attendees will learn how collaborative plant breeding can increase productivity and the profitability of regional organic farms.

The cost to attend the dinner is $35 in advance and $40 the day of the event. Register athttp://bit.ly/2bh7dtv.

For more information, contact Julie Dawson at dawson@hort.wisc.edu or (608) 609-6165.

Seed To Kitchen Collaborative Seeks More Flavors For Local Produce

While local food can be viewed as both an eternal and contemporary concept, a basic way-of-life present throughout humanity’s history and a fashionable type of grocery purchase, the science behind what it is and means is still taking shape. The very definition of “local” with respect to food is not universal, nor are the primary types of foods grown for sale in markets geared towards the desires of locally-oriented consumers.

Julie Dawson, an urban agricultural specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension and an assistant professor in the UW-Madison Department of Horticulture, is working to expand the understanding of local food and how people consume it. Since she arrived in Wisconsin in 2013, Dawson has focused on farms and growers that sell their products in urban areas and through direct exchanges. This means she gets to explore local foods in a broad range of settings, including farmers’ markets, community gardens, community-supported agriculture exchanges, grocery stores that market local goods, and restaurants that serve dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.

One specific element of Dawson’s research focuses on identifying new varieties of fruits and vegetables that are particularly suited to local settings. She places an emphasis on characteristics like flavor, which drive smaller-scale purchase decisions. A July 1, 2016 report on Wisconsin Public Television’s Here And Now introduced her work researching varieties of produce that could be suitable for local food markets.

“Local food systems and farms that are growing for the local market can manage for the best flavor, choose the varieties that have the best flavor, and get it to your table within hours or a few days so that flavor is still there,” Dawson said.

“If you’re getting vegetables from a local farmer, often those have the best flavor, and so you want to eat more, and that in itself will improve people’s health,” said Dawson in the Here And Now report.

This niche of agricultural production is called peri-urban, in which the food’s consumers are based in a specific populated area. Peri-urban areas are transitional zones where rural and urban land uses and development characteristics mix — characteristics one often finds at the edges of growing metropolitan areas. In agricultural terms, that means farms “that are primarily marketing to urban areas,” as Dawson explained in the September 15, 2014 edition of the UW Ag Podcast.

Dawson is the first researcher at UW to focus on how peri-urban agriculture fits into local food systems and direct-to-market economies.

“For some of the larger growing regions that ship across the country, the primary traits are yield, shelf life, shipping, things that are going to get the vegetable from the field to somebody’s table, when that’s 4,000 miles apart,” she said on Here And Now.

But the local food consumer particularly values flavor and texture. Dawson’s lab focuses on these traits through its Seed to Kitchen Collaborative. The project brings together plant breeders, farmers and chefs to assess different varieties of plants and vegetables with an eye (or more appropriately, a set of taste buds) for determining which could tempt purchasers of local food.

“Flavor is a very complex trait and it’s obviously subjective because it’s something that every person experiences a little differently,” Dawson said.

For example, in its 2015 tomato trial, the project examined more than three dozen varieties, growing each inside a hoophouse and in the field. Among the characteristics they tracked were the percentage that germinated, the date of the plants’ flowering, the average marketable and unmarketable yields per plant, the average number of fruits per plant, the average fruit weight and percentage unmarketable by weight, and the primary reasons for unmarketability (often diseases like bacterial speck or nutrition issues like blossom end rot).

These tests also tracked feedback from farmers growing some of the varieties, who shared their perspective on flavor, flaws and marketability. Summer growing crews also participated in flavor tests, in which the tasters offered their personal rankings on multiple characteristics, including sweetness, saltiness, acidity, bitterness and umami, along with texture and color. To complete the trial, several chefs tasted the tomato varieties, describing their perceived strengths and flaws, and suggested how they might serve it and whether or not they would purchase the variety for themselves or their restaurants.

Chefs participating in the taste-testing are from some of Madison’s highest-profile restaurant kitchens. Their input is particularly valued, the Wisconsin State Journal reported, due to their palates and accompanying ability to discern seemingly minor differences between produce varieties.

“The goal of this project is really to experiment with interesting vegetables that can be grown for all of the different local food markets in Wisconsin,” said Dawson to Here And Now.

The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative has tested multiple types of produce, including carrots, peppers, melons and squash, among others.

Editor’s note: Here And Now producer Andy Soth contributed to this report.

Seed To Kitchen Collaborative Seeks More Flavors For Local Produce was originally published on WisContext which produced the article in a partnership between Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and Cooperative Extension.