Blackberry Potato Breed at MSU

Agriculture is a significant economic driver in Michigan, contributing more than $104 billion annually to the state’s economy. While many people know Michigan for its tart cherries or apples, potato production plays a significant role in Michigan’s economy. With more than $200 million of potatoes harvested in 2020 alone, Michigan ranks as the most significant northern supplier of potatoes to the chipping industry. Today, the chip processing sector dominates the Michigan potato industry, with 80% of the state’s approximately 45,000 acres of potato production going towards potato chip production.

Dr. Dave Douches and his team at the Potato Breeding and Genetics Program at Michigan State University (MSU) are working tirelessly to develop new breeds of potatoes that are more disease-resistant, more nutritious, and can improve yields for farmers. To date,  Dr. Douches and the MSU Potato Breeding and Genetics Program have developed and released more than 15 potato varieties for chipping and other uses, which have been licensed to be grown and sold across the US, Canada, and Australia.

Close up photo of the Blackberry Potato

Aptly named for its deep purple skin and flesh, reminiscent of the hue found in blackberries, the Blackberry Potato stands out among the latest creations in potato breeds developed at MSU.

Beyond its unique appearance, the Blackberry Potato holds great promise not just for Michigan growers but globally as well. Engineered to deliver robust yields while resisting diseases, it exhibits resilience against Streptomyces scabies, a common potato ailment caused by a bacteria-like organism that can cause scab lesions on infected potatoes, significantly reducing the marketability of fresh and processing varieties.

The appeal of the Blackberry Potato extends beyond the agricultural realm to consumer preferences. Its vibrant purple coloring enhances the aesthetics of mixed-colored potato bags, drawing shoppers’ interest in the produce aisle.

However, the merits of the Blackberry Potato for consumers include more than its unique appearance; consumers are drawn to its flavor and higher antioxidant content than their conventional counterparts. The versatility of the Blackberry Potato in cuisine adds to its allure, as it can be prepared through boiling, mashing, roasting, chipping, or processing into fries.

In addition to breeding potatoes to produce higher yields and more resilient varieties, Douches is looking to improve their nutritional value. His research indicates that the Blackberry Potato variety he recently developed provides antioxidant content equivalent to that of its blueberry fruit namesake.

Blackberry Potato Chips

While the Blackberry Potato may not yet be widely available in local grocery store produce aisles, some lucky consumers may find products crafted from Blackberry Potatoes on store shelves. Notably, the Great Lake Potato Chip Company in Traverse City produces the renowned Purple Potato Chips with Sea Salt—these chips, which quickly sold out last year, are once again available this year for a limited time.

Consumers may soon see Blackberry potatoes and chips on their local store shelves year-round as numerous companies are applying for licenses to produce seed. Additionally, as of March 2024, four U.S. companies have been licensed to produce Blackberry Potatoes.

Amidst favorable reviews, the Blackberry Potato continues to showcase Dr. Douches and his colleagues’ ongoing commitment to innovation as they persist in breeding new and exciting potato varieties.

About the MSU Innovation Center: 

The MSU Innovation Center is dedicated to fostering innovation, research commercialization, and entrepreneurial activities from the daily research and discovery happening across our campus. We act as the primary interface for researchers aiming to see their research applied to solving real-world problems and making the world a better place to live. We strive to empower faculty, researchers, and students within our community of scholars by providing them with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to bring their discoveries to the forefront. Through strategic collaborations with the private sector, we aim to amplify the impact of faculty research and drive economic growth while positively impacting society. We foster mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with the private sector through corporate-sponsored research collaborations, technology licensing discussions, and support for faculty entrepreneurs to support establishing startup companies.   

Is your company interested in working with Dr. Dave Douches and his team at Michigan State University’s Potato Breeding and Genetics Program? Click HERE.

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