Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Find Molecular Marker for Calcium in Potatoes

March 2, 2016

Early research shows that potatoes with dark or hollow spots are the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality. Consumers do not want these low calcium defects. Moreover, these potatoes are more likely to rot.

Most cultivated varieties of potatoes have naturally low levels of calcium. Researchers at the USDA-ARS and University of Wisconsin-Madison looked into wild potatoes to breed new high-calcium cultivars. The team found a wild potato with almost seven times as much calcium as a usual variety.

Researchers then proceeded to isolate the calcium trait by interbreeding the high- and low-calcium potatoes. The resulting generations showed a 'molecular marker' in the plant's natural DNA, leading researchers to the plant's calcium trait.

A typical breeding program grows and assesses up to 100,000 seedlings every year. However, the process simplifies with known molecular markers.

For more information, read the article at the website of Crop Science Society of America.