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Ground-penetrating radar may help breed early maturing potatoes

Ground-penetrating radar might help the potato industry save water, according to Dirk Hays, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant geneticist in the soil and crop sciences department at College Station.

Hays’ latest project utilizes ground-penetrating radar to select early maturing potato cultivars, which can help producers make harvest decisions and increase water-use efficiency.

His project is in coordination with AgriLife Research and the department of horticultural sciences potato breeding program conducted by breeders Creighton Miller and Isabel Vales, both at College Station.

He said under the current practices, the potato breeding program might start with 80,000 individual lines in early generation trials aimed at selecting high-yielding cultivars and all lines are harvested at 120 days.

“If you want to select for earliness, say a cultivar that is mature at 90 days or 110 days, you would have to replicate the planting of that cultivar multiple times to allow for multiple harvests,” Hays said. “The vegetative nature of the plants and the need to dig up the potatoes doesn’t allow them to select for early maturity.

“But with ground penetrating radar, they can image the size of the tubers and get a correlation to the actual physical size of the potato without harvesting them. When we do that, we can get an almost one-to-one relationship between the digital image of the potato and the actual weight of the potato.”


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