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Could South American Potatoes Be New Mexico's Next Sustainable Crop?

Papa criollo potatoes from South America could be a new sustainable crop for New Mexico farmers.  (NMSU)
Papa criollo potatoes from South America could be a new sustainable crop for New Mexico farmers. (NMSU)
December 13, 2017

LOS LUNAS, N.M. – More nutritional South American potatoes will be front and center at the New Mexico Sustainable Agriculture Conference, Wednesday at Los Lunas, when researchers discuss new and profitable crops for the state.

New Mexico State University researcher and extension service vegetable specialist Stephanie Walker says even though most of us know that a pigment found in dark leafy greens such as kale is associated with better nutrition, Americans still prefer potatoes to any other vegetable.

Walker says she has collaborated with a genetic researcher for field trials to determine if a more nutritionally dense line of potatoes from South America could be grown in New Mexico as a specialty crop.

"White potatoes that most people eat in the United States do not have these pigments or these nutrients,” she says. “But these papa criolla potatoes are very high sources of these yellow pigments, nutrient compounds lutein and zeaxanthin."

The conference on enhancing farmer sustainability is free. It starts at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Valencia Campus of the University of New Mexico.

Other potential crops to be discussed by farmers, educators and stakeholders at the conference include guar and canola. Walker says both grow well in the Southwest and are potential feedstocks for developing not only biofuel, but also high-value byproducts such as rubber and resin.

"Very quickly, if growers don't have new, unique items to bring to market, they can get out competed by the large industrial scale farms,” says Walker. “So introducing a new crop to attract more customers certainly is going to help agricultural sustainability in New Mexico."

The conference is funded by Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM