Texas Potato Breeding Program
From mules and horses to GPS-driven tractors, as well as from ditches and canals to computer-operated center-pivot sprinklers, the Barretts have dealt with many elements over the years to grow the best potatoes in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains.
The wind may be seen as a future source of renewable energy, but for now the hot West Texas winds, along with hail and heat, present a significant source of stress on potato vines. The varieties grown in the past could not meet the yield requirements to be economically viable. For a number of years in the mid-seventies, Stan Barrett worked with Gene Shaver of Nebraska in selecting productive strains from Norgold russet potatoes. The use of appropriate Norgold strains in the late-seventies through mid-eighties increased our production and sustained our operations.
In the late-eighties, the Norkotah russet was developed and widely accepted by the consumer. We had mixed results with it in our operations. Around that time, Bruce Barrett, having seen the advantages of strain selection in Norgolds, developed a relationship with Creighton Miller and his Texas Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program.
In 1989, Creighton and his team selected the more vigorous vines in our #2 field of Norkotahs at our Springlake operation. From those vine selections, Creighton’s team went to work in developing strains more conducive to our growing conditions. Cary Hoffman, also seeing the benefit of improved Norkotahs, played a role in the potato-breeding program as well.
After several years of selection and elimination, the Program developed several strains of Norkotahs that could better thrive in our environment. These strains produced larger vines and were more tolerant of heat and other local stresses. Indeed, this development put the Barretts back in the russet potato growing business.
We continue our close relationship with the Texas Potato Breeding Program even today. Every year we set aside a seven-acre plot for potato variety testing by Creighton’s team which has been overseen for many years by Senior Research Associate Douglas Scheuring and Research Associate Jeff Koym. Every year in mid-July, we host a “Field Day,” allowing various potato growers and others in the industry to meet Creighton and his team so that they can discuss the results of that year’s test plot.
Finding the best potato varieties to grow in our environment is a never-ending process. By working with Creighton and his development program, we will continue to make great strides for many years to come.
Visit Creighton Miller’s Potato Breeding Program.