North Carolina State University's Potato variety trial planting underway

Before new potato varieties are trialed in the field, they are first grown inside the greenhouse. (Courtesy: NC State University)

A researcher for North Carolina State University's Potato Breeding and Genetics Program, Clough plants test fields in Pasquotank County and other state locations each year to test potato varieties and compare their yields and quality.

It's part of an ongoing effort to breed new varieties that ultimately could be grown commercially.

Approximately 10,000 to 20,000 new seeds might go through initial testing, and based on that first growing test, about 2 percent of those new seeds will proceed on to the next year's test. At the end of about 10 years, one or two varieties from the original 10,000 to 20,000 options might be considered for release because they are viable options for commercial growth.

The potato varieties planted Thursday included chipping potatoes, which are typically drier than fresh stock, and russet potatoes, which are unusual for the area but a staple on the Kenneth R. Bateman Farm, where the test field is located this year.

Round white and red-skinned varieties are typically tested in the field, but the breeding program has a lot more to offer, Clough said. In his lab, he has varieties of all colors, including the common white, yellow and red, but also purple, blue and mixed.

"I would grow more specialty lines if growers were interested,"Clough said. "Well, that's not quite true - if there was a market for them."