Low Glycemic Potatoes, a value-added crop for Montana

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2012: $154,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. David Sands
Montana State Univ

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: potatoes


  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, value added
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Potatoes are a dietary staple across the U.S. and the world, providing carbohydrate and vitamins with minimal fat. Many potatoes have high glycemic index (GI) and, when consumed, elicit a very rapid spike in blood glucose levels, which is especially undesirable in individuals with diabetes. Low-GI potatoes are commercially available in niche markets in Denmark and Australia but are essentially non-available in the U.S. The purpose of this project is to identify, establish and scale-up production of low GI potato in Montana and to generate consumer demand and markets for these value-added potatoes.

    Glycemic Index is a numerical measure of the effect of consumption of a given food on blood glucose levels. Determination of GI is expensive, limiting its use in germplasm screening. Fortunately, the GI of a food is relative to its content of slowly digestible starch (amylose). As the content of amylose increases, the GI decreases. Thus, we will screen potato germplasm (waxy and floury) for starch composition and select lines with high amylose content. These lines will be field evaluated for seed potato and table potato production in Montana. The State of Montana has provided funding for the first year of this project. Prior to the start of this project, we will have already screened potato germplasm for starch composition and isolated disease-free tubers from lines with a high content of amylose. Preliminary field evaluation of these lines for seed potato production is scheduled for spring 2012. In the first year of the Western SARE-funded project, our emphasis will be on plant disease susceptibility and continued field evaluation for seed potato production with Montana seed potato producers. The foci of the second year will be continued optimization of seed potato production and preliminary evaluation of table potato production with producers/extension in Eastern Montana. Selected potatoes will be evaluated by local and university taste panels. In the final year, we will continue to optimize and scale-up production of the selected potato lines. Our marketing effort will extend throughout the duration of the project and will include evaluation of demand and development of marketing strategies for both seed and table potato. We project that low GI seed potato and potatoes can economically be produced and marketed in Montana. Demand for low GI potatoes will rapidly increase as awareness of the availability of low GI potatoes increases. The low GI potatoes and potato seed are value-added and will increase profitability of individual farms and rural economies. All data will be provided to producers and professionals through Montana State University extension bulletins, at producer meetings and at public ag days at Research Centers across Montana and the region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall goal of this project is to develop low glycemic potato as a value-added Montana crop. The specific objectives are to:

    I. Identify low-Glycemic index potato cultivars that are adapted for production in Montana.

    a. Screen available germplasm for starch composition (determine amylose: amylopectin ratios).

    b. Isolate and produce disease-free micro-tubers (MSU Seed Potato Laboratory). The state of Montana has provided funding for the first year of this project. This objective will be completed by researchers at MSU under the direction of Dr. David Sands.

    II. Evaluate selected cultivars in field studies in collaboration with Montana seed potato producers and select the most-promising cultivars for seed production scale-up. Continue to evaluate and select varieties throughout commercial scale-up. Dr. Barry Jacobsen (MSU extension) will work directly with seed and commercial potato producers to evaluate the selected germplasm. These field studies will be replicated on private potato fields and on MSU Ag Research station fields. The studies on private fields will be maintained by our cooperative producers, and the plots on Ag Research Stations will be maintained by MSU personnel.

    III. Generate a feasibility analysis, including economics of low GI seed and commercial potato production and estimated market demand. Dr. Alice Pilgeram will work directly with the Montana Seed Potato Growers, the American Diabetes Society, natural food distributors and food developers to evaluate and develop research demand. The State of Montana will assist in marketing newly developed agricultural crops and products (www.madeinmontanausa.com).

    IV. Evaluate selected lines in greenhouse studies for disease susceptibility (year 1) and impact of agronomics on starch profile (year 2 and 3). This portion of the study will be done jointly by researchers in the MSU Plant Science department and the MSU seed potato lab.

    V. Evaluate selected cultivars in field studies in collaboration with Montana potato producers to determine the most-promising cultivars for low-GI potato production in Eastern MT. Work with producers to scale-up production to commercial levels.

    VI. Evaluate cultivars in local and university taste studies (MSU, Extension and Producers).

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.