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November 21, 2017

USDA's $388K grant to fund UMaine's potato-breeding research

Courtesy / University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Courtesy / University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Maine ranked sixth among potato-growing states in 2015. A $388,000 grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded to the University of Maine at Orono will pay for research into potato breeding and help identify ways to improve quality and pest resistance for potato growers in the eastern United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $388,000 grant to the University of Maine at Orono to study potato breeding and improve quality and pest resistance in the eastern United States.

"Maine potatoes are a staple in homes around the country and are a testament to the quality of our farmers and small businesses," U.S. Sens Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, said in a joint statement announcing the grant. "This funding from the USDA will support the University of Maine's cutting-edge research into potato breeding and help the state build on our strong agricultural traditions so we can make Maine potato products more economically resilient."

The grant, awarded through USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Potato Breeding Research Program, aims to increase the productivity, profitability and natural resource stewardship of potato cultivation. The University of Maine will serve as the lead partner on an eastern United States potato breeding project focused on developing attractive, productive, disease- and insect-resistant potato varieties for both large and small scale production.

The research is seen as having strong potential for improving the productivity and quality of eastern U.S. potatoes while also decreasing the economic impact of pests.

According to the Maine Potato Board's 2016 report, Maine farmers grew 14.49 million pounds of potatoes on 46,000 acres — compared to the average since 1999 of 16.25 million pounds on 57,067 acres. In 2015, Maine was the sixth highest potato-growing state in the United States, with Idaho at No. 1, followed by Washington, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Colorado.

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