U.S. Potato Industry
U.S. potato farmers tap into a wealth of experience and resources to make potatoes grown in the United States some of the best in the world. U.S. potato growing practices are the result of many factors:
- World Class Potato Breeding Programs
- Meticulous Soil and Crop Management
- High-Quality Certified Potato Seed
- Careful Harvest & Storage Techniques
- Wide Selection of Varieties
- Precision Irrigation
- Ideal Growing Environment
World Class Potato Breeding Programs
The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service collaborates with researchers at top universities to conduct internationally recognized potato breeding programs. These programs continually develop high-performing varieties to reduce disease and maximize quality and nutrition. The development of new cultivars is the natural result of cross-breeding different varieties of potatoes.
High-Quality Certified Potato Seed
All commercial U.S. potatoes are grown exclusively from certified seed. U.S. seed potato certification is a formal process in which USDA agencies certify that all national standards have been met. Seed producers must meet the following standards:
- Seed is propagated from quality stocks under laboratory and greenhouse conditions that eliminate potential pathogens.
- Starting materials are 100% sourced from tissue culture laboratories and are uniformly disease-tested with zero tolerance.
- A limited generation system limits disease build-up and maintains varietal purity. Under this system, a U.S. seed lot is kept in the production cycle for no more than five years.
- The seed meets stringent regulations regarding sanitation, lot preservation and inspections, including multiple field inspections, storage inspections, post-harvest inspections and a shipping point inspection.
Wide Selection of Varieties
U.S. growers produce hundreds of varieties of potatoes and more are constantly being developed to ensure the best possible variety for a wide range of end-uses from fresh consumption to processing.
Ideal Growing Environment
Potato-growing regions of the United States boast rich, fertile soil and a climate that is ideally suited to growing potato tubers. Summers have long sunny days and cool nights, just what potatoes like. Long cold winters keep pests and diseases to a minimum. These factors mean U.S. potato growers can use a minimum of pesticides and fertilizers leading to more sustainable farming practices.
Meticulous Soil and Crop Management
Farmers in the U.S. pay meticulous care to the soil. They rotate their potato crop, meaning potatoes are planted only once every 3-5 years on the same land. This ensures a healthier crop and a more sustainable farm. At the start of the growing season, farmers work with certified agronomists to monitor nutrient levels in the soil. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) enable farmers to target precise amounts of fertilizer exactly where it is needed to avoid over- or under-fertilization. As the potato tubers develop in the ground, growers and agronomists monitor their progress, testing their moisture level, solids and sugar content.
State-of-the-art equipment measures water content in the soil and evaporation rates to determine precise irrigation needs. Irrigation systems use GPS technology to deliver the right amount of water. The latest technology is used to monitor the weather so growers can adapt their irrigation accordingly.
Careful Harvest & Storage Techniques
Harvest time involves a meticulous check to ensure that not only are the potatoes physiologically mature, but their sugar concentrations are at the appropriate level for optimum storage and processing. U.S. potato farmers invest in state-of-the art specialized equipment to protect the potatoes from damage during harvest, handling and transport. Crops are inspected and graded by USDA agencies. Then, they are transported to processing plants or climate-controlled storage facilities that maintain quality and nutrition.