ORONO, Maine — The Maine Potato Board and University of Maine this week announced the creation of two new potato varieties targeted at the french fry and potato chip industries.
The new varieties — the Easton and the Sebec — were developed in partnership with the University of Maine over the past several growing seasons, Tim Hobbs, director of grower relations for the potato board, said Friday.
“The Easton is the one that is the new french fry processing potato variety and it was named after the town,” he said, speaking of the potato farming community in northern Aroostook County.
The variety was created at UMaine’s Aroostook Research Farm in Presque Isle. Field evaluations conducted since 2004 indicate that the Easton potato will produce higher yields and lighter-colored french fries than the current standard french fry variety. While french fry processing is expected to be the primary market for that variety of spud, it also has excellent flavor and is very good boiled, mashed or baked, according to the potato board.
The other new variety, Sebec, also was developed by the University of Maine and is expected to primarily be useful for potato chip production. Sebec tubers are round to slightly oblong with a lightly textured, buff-colored skin and white flesh. The Sebec was named after the beautiful lake in central Maine, according to the board.
“The Easton and Sebec varieties are the first to be released by the University of Maine in the past decade, and the first varieties to be released in partnership with the Maine Potato Board,” said Hobbs.
He said that potatoes are bred for a multitude of characteristics, including everything from disease resistance to improved fry color.
“To get the right combination of characteristics in one variety takes a large investment in time and resources,” he said. “Eventually this investment pays off.”
Hobbs said that both varieties of potatoes have been planted in national trials and by Aroostook County farmers, but there has been no large scale production of either yet. Hobbs said that the board is currently exploring licensing options for the potato varieties with growers interested in forging an agreement for production.
In the meantime, more varieties of potatoes may be on the horizon, according to a UMaine official.
“There are currently several other varieties we are evaluating for release over the next few years through our partnership with the board,” said Kris Burton, of UMaine’s department of industrial cooperation. “Working closely with the board allows us to commercialize the best varieties to support the Maine potato industry and further research in the field.”
Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, agreed.
“The university has the research and development capability and commitment for developing new potato varieties, from the lab to the field, which takes years,” he said. “They understand what the growers and the industry are looking for and need. We in turn, as a board, have the capacity to promote the varieties and maintain the quality of seed certification required for the integrity of the variety and the market. We are already fielding questions from growers around the country as well as in Maine. Both of these new potato varieties are very promising. This type of results is what makes this partnership truly advantageous for the future of our industry.”