Traits and Genetics

Benoit Bizimungu is quick to identify top breeding priorities for implementing marker-assisted selection at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Fredericton Research and Development Centre.

More Growing Forward 2 funding has been put in place to help expand markets for Canadian potatoes.

The project, funded under the AgriMarketing Program, provides the Canadian Horticultural Council with up to $274,714 to help grow foreign and domestic markets for Canadian potatoes through trade shows, targeted advertising, incoming missions, market research and development, and product promotion.

This investment is part of the federal government's plan to help Canadian farmers expand markets at home and abroad. Canadian potato exports are currently $1.6 billion dollars annually.

It is rare in biology that a single trait can answer questions spanning several fields of research. One such trait is plant biology’s “leaf mass per area,” a simple measurement calculated by weighing a dried leaf and dividing by its original fresh area. Leaf mass per area, or LMA, which has been measured in thousands of studies, is used in nearly every field of plant biology to make predictions of many processes and properties such as leaf photosynthetic rates, nitrogen content and plant environmental preferences.

However, despite the simplicity of the measurement of leaf mass area and its value for predicting so many aspects of plant biology, the relationship of leaf mass area to leaf structure – the cells and tissues that make up a leaf, and their numbers and dimensions – has not previously been determined.

Researchers at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a mathematical equation for leaf mass area that will help to determine what drives plant behaviours based on their cells.

The research, which has important implications as plants adapt to a warming environment, is published online by Ecology Letters, a prestigious journal in the field of ecology.

“The great diversity of leaves in size, shape and color is dazzling, and yet, it is nothing as compared to the diversity of cells and tissues inside,” said Lawren Sack, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the study’s senior author. “However, we have lacked equations to relate this inner diversity to overall leaf behavior in an exact way.”

Grace John, a UCLA doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology and the study’s lead author, conducted a detailed study of the anatomy of 11 species growing on the grounds of UCLA that included iconic species from many ecosystems, such as the toyon or hollywood, and a species of tea from Japan. She measured cross-sections for the sizes and numbers of cells of the different leaf tissues and she stained whole leaves to measure their vein tissues. The team then developed a theoretical approach based on geometric principles to derive an equation for leaf mass area, taking into account the dimensions and numbers of cells of each type in the leaf.

The biologists’ strategy was to create a powerful mathematical equation that predicts the leaf mass area from just the structures inside the leaf. This equation was able to predict the leaf mass area of the diverse leaves with extreme precision.

The team, which collaborated with researchers in Spain, Germany and Australia, also used the mathematical approach to explain the difference between evergreen and deciduous leaves in their toughness.

“If you grab a leaf from a California evergreen shrub and a deciduous sycamore tree, you can feel the difference in toughness, but it’s more challenging to explain why,” John said. “With our approach, we show that evergreen leaves tend to be tougher and live longer because they have larger and denser cells.”

“The implications of these kinds of equations are enormous,” Sack said. Because a lower leaf mass area generally leads to greater plant growth and productivity, and a higher leaf mass area can contribute to stress tolerance, this approach can resolve how differences in cell traits among species affect productivity and tolerance to environmental stress given climate change. 

“It is hard to exaggerate the importance of LMA in plant biology — it’s like body size in animal ecology, facial symmetry for the psychology of attraction, and sprint speed for NFL wide receivers,” John said. “LMA has really been the ‘uber’ variable for understanding plant economics, productivity and function.”

Sack described the approach as a game-changer for designing crops with higher productivity or greater stress tolerance.

“We are aiming to usher in a new era in the science of leaf economics by merging plant anatomy with mathematics and ecology in a unique way,” he said.

 

Three types of potatoes genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine are safe for the environment and safe to eat, federal officials announced.

The approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration late last week, gives Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. permission to plant the potatoes this spring and sell them in the fall.

The company said the potatoes contain only potato genes and that the resistance to late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine, comes from an Argentine variety of potato that naturally produced a defense.

There is no evidence that genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs, are unsafe to eat, but changing the genetic code of foods presents an ethical issue for some. McDonald’s declines to use Simplot’s genetically engineered potatoes for its french fries.

The three new varieties of potato — the Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic — have previously been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They “have the same taste and texture and nutritional qualities” as conventional potatoes, Simplot spokesman Doug Cole said.

The company said they will have reduced bruising and black spots, enhanced storage capacity and a lower amount of a chemical that’s a potential carcinogen and is created when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures.

Conventional potatoes can turn a dark color when cooked after they were kept cold for too long, a problem the new varieties reduce, the company said. Simplot also said the enhanced cold storage will likely have significant ramifications for the potato chip industry by reducing trucking costs.

 

The popularity of Russet Burbank potatoes, grown to meet demand for fast-food French fries, is having an ecological impact because their long growing season requires lots of fertilizer and fungicide. 

 Thanks to the power of technology, curated news is delivered straight to my inbox each day, making it easy for me to keep up with the latest trends, technologies and happenings in the world of agriculture.

Admittedly, the system is a bit flawed, as some of the potato-related headlines aren’t the exact type of news I’m after. Without fail, a new recipe featuring potatoes lands in my inbox, and although the dish may look and sound mouth-watering, it’s not the type of potato “news” we look for to share with readers of Potatoes in Canada.

However, when a story about an Australian man who ate nothing but potatoes throughout 2016 made headlines late last year, I couldn’t help but click the link. Andrew Taylor, a 36-year-old man from Melbourne, Australia, told the International Business Times he was addicted to food and at the end of 2015, he decided enough was enough. He resolved to find one healthy food he could eat every day and quit everything else. Taylor said he conducted considerable research and settled on potatoes because they provide a balanced source of nutrition. At the time of this writing, Taylor had reported losing a total of 52 kilograms, or 115 pounds. He said he plans to continue the diet, with a few modifications, into 2017 and has even dedicated a website – www.spudfit.com – to his journey.

Taylor maintains the challenge is not intended to be a weight loss program, and while this isn’t the type of news you’ll see covered in our pages, there’s a link between Taylor’s story and the research’s ongoing quest to find healthier potatoes. We’ve covered new varieties with added health benefits before – everything from potatoes with lower glycemic responses, to a potato extract that could do exactly what Taylor set out to do: fight obesity and help with other health issues. Perhaps Taylor’s story may bring more light to the benefits potatoes have to offer, which can only help potato scientists across Canada and the world continue their efforts to breed spuds with significant health benefits – a win-win, if you ask me.

In this issue of Potatoes in Canada, the focus shifts away from what the potato can do to keep you healthy, and more toward what you – and some of Canada’s top potato researchers – are doing to keep the potato healthy. As we approach another growing season, pest and disease concerns will soon be at the top of your mind. Make sure you're subscribed to our e-news, where we will send you a monthly newsletter outling the stories that matter to you most. 

Whether your potato interests lie on the breeding side or the growing side, we hope you find valuable information among our stories. Best wishes for a safe and prosperous growing season.

Breeders try to combine all of the positive attributes, including improved levels of disease and pest resistance, or, at the very least, without unacceptably high levels of susceptibility. Photo courtesy of AAFC. 

One has dark pink flesh and red skin, making it rich in antioxidants and perfect for niche marketing. Another increases yields by as much as 35 per cent when compared with the industry standard Russet Burbank, which is good news for french fry processors. Several others offer particular disease and pest resistances.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has deregulated the Ranger Russet and Atlantic varieties of the second generation genetically modified Innate potato developed by J.R. Simplot.

They join the Innate second generation Russet Burbank potato, deregulated last year, according to a news release. The Packer reports. | READ MORE

Sept. 15, 2016, Ontario – Selecting suitable varieties is the first step in any successful potato operation. Not only must varieties suit the intended market, but they must also be well adapted to local growing conditions. Potato breeders are continuously releasing new varieties, but varieties that perform well in one region may not do well in neighbouring areas. Thus, new varieties must be evaluated to determine local adaptation. 

In 2016, the Dutch company HZPC, sponsored an on-farm variety trial in Ontario. The trial was organized and hand planted by Eugenia Banks at Dorsey Farms near Alliston. Plot maintenance – weekly irrigation, application of crop protection products when needed and top-killing – was done by Brad Dorsey and his son Adam. 

This trial was a real test for new varieties because of the extremely high temperatures and drought that prevailed all summer. Such extreme conditions promote the development of problems such as second growth, heat necrosis and pythium leak, to name a few. 

A total of 100 new varieties/clones plus standards for comparison were evaluated. Fresh market yellows, whites, reds, blues, purples, fingerlings, russets and processing potatoes were included in the trial. 

Among the new yellow fleshed varieties, Salinero, Primabelle, Noblesse, Panamera, Orlena and Jennifer performed very well. The standard for yellows was Colomba, a beautiful smooth skin, high yielding variety that is being grown commercially in Ontario. 

A red, yellow fleshed entry, Clone #46, produced a high yield of attractive round tubers with smooth, deep red skin. It has excellent culinary traits. Probably, this clone will be named in the near future. Fenway Red an early-maturing red with round, attractive white fleshed tubers got good scores. Sunred was noticeable for its high yield. 

In the white flesh table category, the recently released Whitney was hard to beat due to its high tolerance to common scab, beautiful smooth skin and no culls. 

The white fleshed Ivory Russet performed very well. Pomerelle Russet, a standard for russets, produced a good crop of long, heavy-russeted tubers of medium yield, but no culls. 

In the specialty category, the red-skinned Prince of Orange has the darkest yellow flesh of any of the current varieties. It will be of interest to growers producing potatoes for the gourmet market. Prince of Orange has outstanding culinary traits. Mozart was, as usual, a winner in the specialty category: beautiful, smooth pinkish skin, high yield, very tasty. 

After yield was taken, a sample of each of the 100 entries was put in storage to determine their dry matter content, culinary traits, susceptibility to silver scurf and Fusarium dry rot. The entries with the highest scores will be displayed at growers’ meetings. 

This on-farm trial exceeded expectations: no heat-related problems were detected, yield was above average and several entries look promising for the Ontario market. 

On-farm variety trials provide invaluable information for potato growers and are an important component of technology transfer. 

 

May 26, 2016, Canada – Bred by plant scientist Gary Johnston, the Yukon Gold potato – praised for its versatility and flavour – celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. | READ MORE

 

April 28, 2016, Prince Edward Island – An Idaho-developed potato recently approved for consumption by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency hasn’t been met with approval by some Islanders. | READ MORE

March 22, 2016, Canada – Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have approved a genetically engineered potato for sale, said a U.S.-based company on Monday in announcing that its non-browning spuds could be in Canadian supermarkets by Thanksgiving. | READ MORE

 

 

Although many consumers aren’t aware of it, potatoes have a lot of good things going for them when it comes to human nutrition. For instance, potatoes contain vitamin C, minerals, fibre, protein and bioactive compounds, plus they help provide a feeling of fullness that discourages overeating. Now an Ontario project is identifying some especially healthy potato cultivars that could help win back health-conscious consumers.

The perception that potatoes are not a healthy food choice has resulted in decreased potato consumption and production in Canada, notes Reena Pinhero, a researcher in the department of food science at the University of Guelph. She is leading this project along with Rickey Yada, dean of the faculty of land and food systems at the University of British Columbia.

Pinhero explains the potato’s bad reputation is based on two factors and she puts those two factors in perspective: “Potatoes are generally considered as a carbohydrate-rich food contributing to high calorie intake and causing weight gain. The fact is a potato is mostly water, so if you don’t eat too many, then you will not take in too many carbohydrates or calories.

“The second bad reputation is their high glycemic index reported by some studies. However, potatoes are not that dense, so the glycemic load from an average serving of potatoes is actually not more than any other carbohydrate food.” Potatoes tend to have low-medium to high glycemic loads, with the exact value depending on things like the food preparation method, the cultivar and where the potatoes were grown.

The project, which runs from 2014 to 2017, could help boost potato’s health reputation. “The project’s overall objective is to identify early maturing, coloured potato varieties with health benefits (low glycemic index and glycemic load, and high phytochemical antioxidants) and acceptable sensory qualities, that are affordable, accessible to low- and middle-income families, provide a price premium to growers, reduce importation, and provide retailers with local food,” Pinhero explains.

The project focuses on cultivars that are both early maturing and coloured because both traits tend to be associated with enhanced nutritional attributes.

“Early maturing potato cultivars usually have a lower dry matter and low glycemic index due to a different starch structure. So early potatoes may be good candidates for low glycemic load foods,” Pinhero says.

“Potatoes generally contain many phytochemicals, such as various polyphenols, flavonols, anthocyanins, carotenoids, vitamins, et cetera. Coloured varieties, especially based on their flesh or skin colour, contain substantially higher amounts of these phytochemicals. These phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants, have [been linked to] many health benefits, such as providing anti-inflammatory effects and protection from cardiovascular diseases, many cancers and diabetes.”

According to Pinhero, early potatoes receive a premium price compared to late maturing varieties, but in Ontario at present, early fresh market potatoes are limited to white varieties. “The red and yellow varieties currently grown in Ontario don’t mature until September, creating a need for imports.”

Along with Pinhero and Yada, this collaborative project brings together several other researchers with diverse expertise, including Qiang Liu, Rong Cao and Benoit Bizimungu with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), and Alan Sullivan and Andreas Boecker from the University of Guelph. The project’s industry partner is Grand Bend Produce based in Grand Bend, Ont.

The researchers are currently testing 14 varieties, including two advanced lines developed by AAFC’s Fredericton Research and Development Centre. Four of the varieties have coloured flesh and skin, five have either coloured skin or flesh, and the rest have either white or creamy skin and flesh colour.

They are evaluating each variety for protein, total starch, various starch fractions, available carbohydrates, total polyphenols, anthocyanins, flavonols and antioxidant potential.

“The various starch fractions – such as rapidly digestible starch, slowly digestible starch and resistant starch – are evaluated to estimate the glycemic index and glycemic load. The total starch and starch fractions, especially the slowly digestible and resistant starch, are very important as they affect human health by reducing the glycemic load. For example, resistant starch acts as a fibre,” Pinhero explains.

Once the researchers have identified which of the varieties have the best nutritional qualities, they will conduct a sensory analysis of those varieties for consumer acceptance. As well, they are conducting marketing studies in collaboration with Boecker.

So far, they are making good progress on the nutritional analyses. “We have analyzed the various starch fractions and the estimated glycemic index and glycemic load. We have identified 11 varieties that have low-estimated glycemic load, and three that have medium-estimated glycemic load,” Pinhero says.

The data from the project’s first year show Purple Fiesta, Carling Ford, Ciklamen, French Fingerlings, Red Thumb and Yellow Star had the lowest values for estimated glycemic index and glycemic load. Next, the researchers will be repeating the analysis of starch, glycemic index and glycemic load, but with fewer varieties and different cooking methods, and they’ll be conducting the phytochemical analysis.

Multiple benefits
“We are excited that this research will bring out potato’s many healthy characteristics so the consumer can make an informed decision of a healthier food choice and the industry will also benefit from it,” Pinhero says.

She sees many potential benefits from the project for growers, retailers and consumers. Ontario growers will have more choices for early maturing cultivars, along with more opportunities for obtaining the premium price for early potatoes. And, at the same time, they’ll have more choices for nutritionally superior cultivars desired by health-conscious consumers. Retailers will have access to a greater variety of locally produced early potatoes and those varieties will be more nutritious. “Availability of [local] early maturing, coloured potatoes with health-promoting bioactives, high antioxidant potential, and low glycemic index and glycemic load, would benefit the table potato market, potentially expanding the [Ontario] market by $6.6 million,” Pinhero says.

The information resulting from the project could be used in efforts to educate the public about the nutritional value of potatoes. Such efforts could contribute to an improved health reputation for potatoes and to increased potato consumption in Canada over time.

Consumers will benefit from more nutritious, low-cost food options. “A recent study on vegetable cost metrics in the United States shows that potatoes and beans provide the most nutrient value, thereby providing affordable, healthy vegetables for low- and middle-income families,” she notes. “Along with lifestyle changes, these healthy potatoes could be part of a variety of healthier food choices for prevention of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and several forms of cancer.”

Funders for this project include the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Potato Cluster 2 of the AgriInnovation Program of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Ontario Potato Board.

 

 

 

 

A recent project has corrected misinformation and filled information gaps about the origins of Russet Burbank. It provides crucial genetic information for potato breeders, along with a remarkable tale about how Russet Burbank has come to be a global success.

“Russet Burbank is now the most important potato cultivar in the world. It is the number one processing cultivar in Canada, the United States and the Netherlands, which are the top three frozen French fry-producing countries. It is number one in Europe, North America, and Australia and New Zealand, and it’s right up there in parts of India and China,” says Danielle Donnelly, associate professor in the plant science department of McGill University. “I find it astonishing that a cultivar with origins in the 1890s could still be so important today.”

Donnelly’s research usually focuses on genetic improvement of potato cultivars, but during a sabbatical a couple of years ago at the Potato Research Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), she started putting together the story of Russet Burbank. She soon brought in others to help her with the project, including people from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), McGill, AAFC and McCain Foods Canada Ltd. She notes, “It took a big team to pull all the information together.”

Russet Burbank comes from a line of important cultivars with beginnings in the 1850s. At that time, the potato industry was reeling from the disastrous impacts of late blight, which resulted in the devastating Irish Potato Famine, lasting from 1845 to about 1851. Many of the potato varieties at the time were susceptible to late blight, so breeders and botanists were scouting in South and Central America for potato lines that might have late blight resistance. Rough Purple Chili was one of several South American genotypes brought to the U.S. through the Panamanian Embassy. The amateur botanist C.E. Goodrich tested these lines and selected Rough Purple Chili (released in 1851). The cultivar was thought to have come from Chile (which was spelled “Chili” at the time).

Rough Purple Chili was the parent of Garnet Chili (released in 1857). And from Garnet Chili came Early Rose (released in 1867). These cultivars are very important in North American potato genetics. “In the 1990s, Dr. Stephen Love looked at the genealogy of the top 44 cultivars in the U.S. at the time. He found that Garnet Chili and Early Rose were in the ancestry of all [of] them,” Donnelly says. “It is amazing how small the genetic base is.”

From Early Rose came Burbank (released in 1876), which was named after its breeder, Luther Burbank. As a young man, he made a selection from Early Rose plants in his mother’s garden and came up with Burbank. Then from Burbank came Russet Burbank (released in 1902).

According to Donnelly, the cultivar Burbank was a noticeable improvement over its progenitors. “Garnet Chili is a small, roundish red potato; it is sort of smushed in, almost pointy on one side. Early Rose was considered prettier, with its pinkish colour, and it is longer, bigger and easier to peel than Garnet Chili. Burbank is even bigger and nicer looking than Early Rose, and it could be used for both baking and boiling.”

Luther Burbank sold his Burbank cultivar to a seed company, Messrs. Gregory and Son, but the company let him keep some. Donnelly says, “He went to southern California and started propagating and distributing the cultivar there. A very early USDA, which was just being formed in those days, started promoting the cultivar to all of the potato-growing areas in the U.S. Within just a few years, Burbank was being grown from Mexico all the way up to Alaska.”

Over the following years, various people noted some Burbank tubers had a russet skin. An incorrect but well-known account attributed the discovery of this russeted type to Louis D. Sweet, a Colorado potato grower, in 1914. However, the USDA’s Paul Bethke, who was one of Donnelly’s collaborators on the project, worked with several librarians to look through early U.S. seed catalogues. They determined Russet Burbank was probably originally released in 1902 as May’s Netted Gem by L. L. May & Co. The names Netted Gem and Russet Burbank were often used interchangeably for this cultivar during the next few decades.

Genetic relations
“Over the years, many people have tried to figure out the relationships between Rough Purple Chili, Garnet Chili, Early Rose and Burbank. The breeders of these cultivars each thought the cultivar they had grown in their garden or field had [self-pollinated] and that they were collecting seeds that were ‘selfed’ or inbred,” Donnelly says.

“But all the [genetic] evidence shows these cultivars were actually pollinated from outside. Potatoes are bee pollinated, which tells us those bees really got around, no matter how isolated the breeders thought their fields were. So Garnet Chili, Early Rose and Burbank are hybrids. That was shown in the 1990s through isoenzyme work, and then it was shown again and again through genetic studies and very sophisticated molecular studies.

“These same molecular genetic studies find no difference between Burbank and Russet Burbank, even though the skin is shockingly different. So Russet Burbank is a ‘sport,’ or a mutation, of Burbank,” Donnelly adds.

Thus, as a result of the information brought together in this project, seed companies and germplasm repositories can correct their information on Russet Burbank and its progenitors.

“Breeders need to know how these particular cultivars were produced because the cultivars have been so successful,” Donnelly explains. “If breeders mistakenly thought these cultivars were selfed, they might continue to self them to try to find improvements, when really the breeders should be finding out what the male parent was from the pollen coming in. That is really critical information for a breeder.”

Lucky turns in the path to success
During the early 1900s, Russet Burbank gradually replaced Burbank in popularity. One reason was because people tended to prefer its russeted skin to the thin skin of Burbank. “When Russet Burbank first came along, people were still recalling the Irish famine, and they assumed a potato with a thicker skin would more likely resist late blight. That thicker skin probably does help protect the tuber against a number of bacterial and fungal issues,” Donnelly says.

Another important factor in Russet Burbank’s early success was that Idaho started to promote the cultivar during this same period. She notes, “People in Idaho were trying to find something that would really identify their state and their potatoes. Russet Burbank was a nice-looking potato that grew well for their growers, so they made the cultivar their signature potato, increasing its fame and widespread use.”

As well, the railways publicized the cultivar. “The stories go that some Russet Burbank tubers were so big that they caused problems for the growers because people didn’t want to buy potatoes that were as big as your head. However, someone who was procuring food for the new railways at the time heard about these big potatoes and started serving them on the railway and heavily promoting them as a special treat,” Donnelly says.

A further boost to Russet Burbank’s prominence came in the 1940s, with the growth of fast-food franchises in the U.S. “Who would have known those fast-food franchises would take off like a rocket? Those franchises are fuelled by French fries and burgers. So French fries took off, and frozen French fries became important to distribute to restaurants and to the army during the war,” Donnelly says. “The big, blocky Russet Burbank tubers are perfect for frozen French fries because there is not too much waste, the fries are long, and you can make them in different widths depending on your interest. Plus they have a great taste and fry beautifully, and the tubers store very well.”

The combination of certain traits that make Russet Burbank especially suited to French fry production is another lucky happenstance. Xiu-Qing Li, an AAFC researcher involved in the project, pointed out Burbank and Russet Burbank have “the most extraordinary collection of recessive traits,” Donnelly says. “Such a combination of recessive traits is unlikely to happen very often, and yet all of those characteristics – the tuber’s elongated, blocky shape, large size, very shallow eyes and not very pronounced eyebrows – help make the tuber particularly valuable in the frozen French fry industry.”

A further reason for Russet Burbank’s ongoing success is familiarity. “When people taste French fries in one of the many franchises, they develop a sensory image of what a French fry should be like. Russet Burbank has set a standard for French fry taste and texture,” Donnelly explains. “And then there’s the accumulated expertise in growing, storing, processing, transporting and cooking Russet Burbank French fries, ensuring a very reliable, very delicious product.”

Russet Burbank’s excellent storage qualities are also very important. “I visited Cavendish Farms one summer in July. They had mountains of [Russet Burbank] potatoes to process and they had done their million pounds and more for that day,” Donnelly says. “[Processors] need tubers that store extremely well because they have to be able to process them until the next crop comes in, in the fall.”

These days, the vast majority of frozen French fries in the U.S. and Canada are made with Russet Burbank.

Looking back to the origins of Russet Burbank, Donnelly thinks of Luther Burbank. “His cultivar Burbank was his first discovery, and it turned out to be his most enduring and most important one. However, he is credited with introducing between 800 and 1000 plants to American horticulture, which is hugely impressive. Although he won some awards, he did not receive the respect of his plant breeding peers because he was very unconventional – he wasn’t a scientist, [and] he used intuition and logic and experience to make his decisions,” she says.

“When Luther Burbank produced his cultivar, there was no such thing as plant breeders’ rights and no royalty stream. These days, if he produced such a remarkably popular cultivar, he would be a very wealthy man. And when his cultivar Burbank mutated to become Netted Gem, or Russet Burbank, that would have belonged to him as well because today if you own a cultivar and register it under your name and it mutates, you are owner of that mutation, even if someone else finds it. If Luther Burbank were alive today, the knowledge that his potato cultivar is the most important in the world would make a big difference to his success as a breeder and to the respect he got as a breeder.”

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Oct. 27, 2015 - Genesys, a resource for plant genetic resources data, has been improved and updated to help people develop climate-smart crop varieties needed to overcome future environmental challenges. Scientists will benefit from improved access to data on more than 2.8 million plant samples from genebank collections from all over the world.

Genesys users can search the global holdings of 446 institutes around the world. Genesys includes three of the world's largest networks: the EC/PGR, the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) of the United States Department of Agriculture, and the CGIAR genebanks, which together hold the most important crop diversity collections in the world.

Genesys brings genebanks together, making passport and characterization data available by using - and reinforcing - established standards for data exchange in the genebank community. Data providers can easily sort and display the information they hold, compare their collection with those held in other genebanks. This allows them to avoid duplication and focus their resources and efforts in filling gaps in their collections.

Genesys also lets breeders know which genebanks hold the seed varieties that might have the traits they need to develop the crops that will feed the world in the future. 

New features include video tutorials, as well as the recently launched newsletter and @GenesysPGR Twitter account. 

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