Yukon Gold named 2011 Seed of the Year

NOVEMBER 9, 2011

(TORONTO, Ont.) – Yukon gold is a potato variety with outstanding performance, sustainability, marketability and industry impact topped entries in the seventh annual Seed of the Year competition (east division).

Yukon Gold developed by the late Garnet (Gary) Johnston from the University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture, was named Seed of the Year (east division) today at a recognition event at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

Throughout the early to mid 1900’s, many Dutch and Belgians came to Canada and settled in the Lake Erie area known as the “Banana Belt”. Primarily these new Canadians became vegetable growers. However, the potatoes farmed in the area were white-fleshed, whereas yellow–fleshed potatoes were considered the norm in Europe and South America. Immigrants to North America were accustomed to, and preferred, potatoes with yellow-flesh for both visual appeals, as well as taste. The farmers petitioned for the breeding and licensing of a yellow-fleshed potato similar to what they had back home, which ultimately presented an opportunity for the potato breeding program at the University of Guelph. It took one research team, in particular, led by potato breeder Gary Johnston of the University of Guelph and sponsored by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, to achieve success in satisfying a previously untapped market for an enhanced, disease-resistant gold variety of potato which could be easily grown in North America. The result was Yukon Gold, named after the Yukon River gold rush country and for its distinctive colour.

Five other finalists for the east division of Seed of the Year were also recognized at the event. They are Ex Rico 23, a navy bean variety developed by University of Guelph professor Peter Pauls and technician Tom Smith and breeder Alireza Navabi; AC Gehl, a hulless oat variety developed by Bill Collins and Vern Burrows of the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa; AC Rigodon developed by Jean-Pierre Dubuc and Andre Comeau of the Soils and Crops Development Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Quebec City; OAC Bayfield developed in 1993 by a group of researchers from the University of Guelph led by Professors Wallace Beverdorf and Jack Tanner; and Divident VL Orchard Grass developed by Stephen Bowley and Donna Hancock with the University of Guelph.

The Seed of the Year competition encourages public breeders to highlight their research accomplishments in developing a new field crop, forage, fruit, vegetable or herb variety. Any publicly developed Canadian variety is eligible to compete.

The competition was designed by University of Guelph and SeCan, with support from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Additional sponsorship was provided by Canadian Seed Growers Association, Quality Seeds Ltd, Ontario Asparagus Growers, Ontario White Bean Producers, Canadian Seed Trade Association, Snobelen Farms, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, and the Ontario Potato Board.

For more information, contact Martin Harry, SeCan (519) 423-6435; Candice Van Laecke, Seed of the Year Student Coordinator (519) 983-2340