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Charles R. Brown

The ‘Russet Burbank’ potato cultivar currently occupies first place in acreage planted in North America and is worth in the United States $1.4 billion annually. It is a sport of ‘Burbank's Seedling’, which was selected by Luther Burbank in 1873. The ancestry of Burbank stems from a plant introduction brought to the United States by the Rev. Chauncey Goodrich of New York State in 1853. The priorities of potato breeding had been transformed by repetitive crop failures caused by the emergence of the plant pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Modern testing suggests that derivatives of Goodrich’s potatoes were slightly more resistant to Phytophthora. Burbank discovered a single fruit on one of these derivatives, ‘Early Rose’, in his mother’s garden. Taking the 23 true seeds, he nursed them to full-sized plants and selected ultimately No. 15. It produced an unusually high yield of large, very oblong tubers, stored well, and was a good eating potato. Burbank’s life was destined for a long career in California and he attempted to sell the clone to J.H.J. Gregory of Gregory’s Honest Seeds, a successful businessman. Ultimately Gregory agreed to buy it for $150, far less than Burbank wanted, but enough to propel him to California. Gregory named the potato ‘Burbank's Seedling’, which no doubt engendered fame for the entrepreneur. Luther Burbank had been allowed by Gregory to keep 10 tubers, which became the seed source for the ‘Burbank's Seedling’ to spread north and south along the West Coast of North America with a crop value, stated by Burbank, of $14 million in 1914. It is not clear that Luther Burbank prospered from ‘Burbank's Seedling’ in the West. A skin sport with a russet skin was found in Colorado in 1902 and was advertised by a seed company under the name ‘Netted Gem’. ‘Burbank's Seedling’ per se disappeared from commerce and ‘Netted Gem’ slowly increased, finding a special niche in production of French fry potatoes. It is clear that Luther Burbank gained tremendous insight into the dynamics of hybridization in revealing genetic variation from clonally propagated species. During the rest of his career he would use this technique to produce new and amazing forms of numerous food and ornamental species. ‘Burbank's Seedling’ was his entrez into the world of plant breeding.

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Charles R. Brown, David Culley, Meredith Bonierbale and Walter Amorós

Tubers of 38 native potato cultivars of different taxonomic groups from South America were analyzed to determine the total anthocyanins, total carotenoids, and antioxidant values. Total anthocyanin ranged from zero to 23 mg cyanidin equivalents/100 g fresh weight (FW). Total carotenoid ranged from 38 to 2020 μg zeaxanthin equivalents/100 g FW. Oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) was measured for the anthocyanin (hydrophilic) and carotenoid (lipophilic) extracts. The hydrophilic ORAC ranged from 333 to 1408 μm Trolox equivalents/100 g FW. The lipophilic ORAC ranged from 4.7 to 30 nM α-tocopherol equivalents/100 g FW. The cultivars consisted of 23 diploids, seven triploids, and eight tetraploids. Total carotenoids was negatively correlated with total anthocyanins. Total anthocyanins was correlated with hydrophilic ORAC. Among clones with less than 2 mg cyanidin equivalents/100 g FW, total carotenoid and lipophilic ORAC were correlated, but this was not true for analysis of all 38 clones. Although total anthocyanins or hydrophilic ORAC values reported here were not outside of the ranges found in North American and other breeding materials, total carotenoids and lipophilic ORACs are higher than previously reported, suggesting that native cultivars of South America with high levels of total carotenoids and high lipophilic ORAC are a unique germplasm source for introgression of these traits into specific potato cultivars outside the center of origin.