For the first time, potato breeders are deliberately selecting breeding material to enhance vitamin C in potatoes to give growers another marketing advantage.
Stephen Love, Dennis Corsini, breeders at the University of Idaho Aberdeen R and E Center, and ARS breeder Rich Novy, also at Aberdeen, will cross potatoes with high and low levels of vitamin C.
The cross will hopefully lead to a better understanding of how potatoes inherit the healthful vitamin. They will then cross the outstanding performers with each other to develop offspring that outperform their parents.
"Potatoes are already a good source of vitamin C, even though we've never deliberately selected breeding material for that quality," Al Mosley, Oregon State University potato specialist and a cooperator in the Tri-State Potato Breeding Project, said.
"If we start crossing parents that are high in vitamin C, we should be able to raise the vitamin C level even more-and potatoes could become quite an important source," Mosley said.
"We want to provide even more good, cheap food. We want to make something that's good for you even better for you," Mosley added.
According to the National Potato Promotion Board, a medium-sized, 5.3-ounce potato provides nearly half of the 60 milligrams of vitamin C adults should consume each day. It also includes a generous helping of glutathione-another antioxidant-and more potassium than a banana.
For the past two years, Tri-State potato development scientists have been evaluating potatoes for vitamin C. They found that the highest-ranking potatoes give consumers five times more vitamin C than the lowest-ranking ones. "That's a huge range," Love stated. Vitamin C helps the body heal, absorb iron, and strengthen tissues, bones and blood vessels. More importantly, it can inactivate the "free-radicals" that attack protein, fat and DNA. The free radicals may contribute to cancer, heart disease, cataracts and the aging process.