In this Sept. 27, 2017, file photo, potatoes await harvesting at Green Thumb Farms in Fryeburg. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

University of Maine researchers have received about half a million dollars toward the development of new potatoes that can better handle the stresses of climate change.

Gregory Porter, a University of Maine professor of agronomy, said that in recent years, he and other researchers have directed more time and funding toward breeding new potato varieties that can tolerate hotter summers and resist rot diseases caused by heavier rainfall.

“And I think our increased emphasis on the stress-tolerant, test-tolerant varieties, are going to pay even bigger dividends when we move down the road, and if projections on climate change prove to be as severe as some would indicate,” he said.

Porter said the funds will allow them to test different varieties in states such as North Carolina and Florida, whose climates may be similar to what Maine’s will be in the future.

“Seven scientists at the University of Maine, and also, seven different states participating in the research,” Porter said. “They give us those locations to help screen for these stress conditions.”

Porter said that it can take about 15 years to fully develop a new potato variety, and the new funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow the team to further test the more resistant strains.

Growers in northern Maine have reported a healthy potato crop this fall, but dry weather over the past two years led to less robust harvests.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.