Frost-Resistant Potato Variety Introduced in Peru
A trio of scientists has developed a new, frost-resistant potato variety meant to help Peruvian farmers contend with difficult growing conditions caused by climate change.
A research group from the University of Wisconsin-Madison worked closely with scientists from the International Potato Center (CIP), the Instituto Nacional de Innovación Agraria (INIA) and farmers to develop the new variety called Wiñay (meaning “to grow”). The frost-resistant potato is long and thin with brown skin and yellow flesh and is grown for the fresh market. It was developed to be cultivated in Peru’s Altiplano at elevations of up to 14,000 feet above sea level.
The project began in 2005 using progeny of a Wisconsin potato clone that had good frost tolerance, yield, tuber size, and eating quality. The clone carried the genes for frost hardiness from a wild potato species called Solanum commersonii. The progeny of this clone was selected in Wisconsin, but, when tested in frost-prone areas of the Peruvian highlands, it didn’t perform well because the Peruvian summer days are shorter than the Midwest’s.
Next, the researchers chosen seven Peruvian varieties. After crossbreeding with the Wisconsin frost-hardy clone, they sent about 20,000 seed potatoes to Peru for field trials at the INIA experimental station in the southern city of Puno. With each passing year, they evaluated new progeny for the preferred qualities and traits and narrowed the pool until arriving at the one potato that came to be Wiñay.
After 10 years of field trials, the culling process, the final variety selection, and the naming of the potato, the new variety was revealed for the public in November 2018 near Lake Titicaca in Puno.