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Bryan Bowen: Purple potatoes headed for your plate?

[audio:|titles=Bryan Bowen on new potato varieties ]

Bryan Bowen, Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(715) 369-0619

Birth of a potato variety.

3:01 – Total time

0:12 – New potato varieties
0:48 – Better nutrition for the world
1:16 – Developing market for new varieties
1:32 – Value of the potato business
2:01 – Wisconsin in the potato business
2:28 – Diversity of Wisconsin potato business
2:55 – Lead out


Sevie: The birth of a potato variety.  We’re visiting today with Bryan Bowen, Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station.

Bryan, welcome to our microphone. Can you give us an idea of what new varieties you’re working on at this time?

Bryan:  Well, we started taking more of a look at or an emphasis at colored potatoes and potatoes of different shapes and sizes.  There’s a lot of interest in the nutritional value of colored potatoes. With lets say… purple skin and yellow flesh on the inside or red skin and yellow flesh. Some people like dark purple potatoes. These are all things that have potentially value to people’s daily nutrition.

Sevie:  Where is this nutrition likely to be applied if these potato varieties come to market?

Bryan:  Color in food is often associated with ah the idea of antioxidants–cancer preventing–aspects of our diet. And, as potatoes carry more color with them, people can expect that that may be just a background help in your general heath and nutrition.

Sevie: And what is the market for these colorful varieties?

Bryan:  Quite honestly, it’s not very developed at this point, but I often say that as people’s stomachs are full that they begin to look for more interesting things in their food and so we think that there’s a lot of potential in the future for “specialty potatoes,” as we call them.

Sevie:  Can you tell us a little bit about the value of the potato business?

Bryan:  Well, potatoes are a very interesting kind of crop, because they’re a high-energy crop with carbohydrates–they contain protein and they have the value of vitamin C.  Really, when you think about world nutrition, or meeting the needs of a growing population, potatoes probably have as much or more potential to feed the world then any other crop that we grow.

Sevie: Well, Bryan, where does Wisconsin figure into the potato business?

Bryan: Pretty consistently over time, we’ve been ranked #3 in total production, behind Idaho and Washington State. Our potatoes are more marketed in the Midwest and as far south as Florida and all the way to the east coast.  And so, it’s a very important part of the whole agricultural economy in Wisconsin.

Sevie:  Is there anything about the Wisconsin potato business that makes it different then Idaho or Washington?

Bryan:  Well, I think we’re diversified. We have both a seed industry that produces the seed potatoes that are marketed all over the country. We grow all the major market types: the round, white potatoes for fresh eating, round, white potatoes for the chip stock industry for making potato chips. We have a major french fry plant in Wisconsin.  There’s 50% of our acres that are shipped for fresh market consumption.

Sevie: We’ve been visiting with Bryan Bowen, Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station, and I’m Sevie Kenyon.