Ongoing Projects

Bethke Lab

USDA and University of Wisconsin-Madison


Diploid potato. Cultivated potato is tetraploid and thus the genetics of potato are more complex than they are for diploid crops. We are part of a national effort to simplify the potato genome by extracting dihaploids from cultivated material. Our long term goal is to reduce the deleterious genetic load in potato and to generate hybrids that are produced from true seed.

Red potato appearance. Attractive appearance is a highly beneficial attribute of fresh market potatoes. Red-skinned potatoes get their beautiful color from anthocyanin pigments in the skin. We are investigating how genotype and the production environment influence the pigment content and appearance of red-skinned potatoes.

Lenticels. Lenticels are pores in the potato skin that allow for exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. Lenticels enlarge when soils are wet and gas exchange is restricted. Enlarged lenticels are potential sites for pathogen entry and can disfigure the skin. We are studying lenticel dynamics and evaluating the consequences of enlarged lenticels.

Aerial imaging. Improved technologies have been a major contributor to increases in potato productivity. One recent technology that has the potential to assist potato growers with crop management is aerial imaging with multispectral and hyperspectral sensors. We are working with other research groups to explore the potential for aerial imaging to assist growers with nitrogen management of the potato crop.

Potato chip quality. Unsightly dark blemishes on potato chips are undesirable to consumers. Stem-end chip defect is a localized darkening on potato chips that occurs near the vasculature at a position corresponding to the basal (stem) end of the tuber. We are using transient periods of high temperature to trigger the formation of stem-end chip defects. Harvested tubers are evaluated for biochemical and molecular changes associated with defect formation.

Potato virus Y. Potato virus Y is transmitted from plant to plant by aphids. Seed tubers harvested from plants infected with potato virus Y contain the virus and serve as a source of virus during the following year. We are determining the impact  in-season infection with potato virus Y on yield and quality of chipping potatoes and are developing molecular tools to assist with future potato virus Y research.