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History and Origin of Russet Burbank (Netted Gem) a Sport of Burbank

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The importance of Russet Burbank, the world’s foremost French fry processing cultivar, requires a complete description of its origin. Its maternal lineage included Rough Purple Chili, Garnet Chili, Early Rose, and Burbank. An incorrect but widely disseminated account attributes the origin of Russet Burbank to Colorado potato grower Lou D. Sweet, with 1914 often given as the date of introduction. However, it is likely that Russet Burbank was originally released in 1902 as May’s Netted Gem by L. L. May & Co. (St. Paul MN). The names Netted Gem and Russet Burbank were used synonymously for many decades. Isoenzyme, multiplex PCR, and SNP data confirm Russet Burbank as a mutation of Burbank and do not support a seedling origin. Russet Burbank was found to be similar to Burbank in processing and nutritional characteristics. A goal of this effort is that descriptions of Russet Burbank’s lineage and origins will be corrected by seed companies in lists of potato varieties and at world repositories holding Russet Burbank and its progenitors.


La importancia de Russet Burbank, la principal variedad mundial para la industria de las papas a la francesa, requiere de la descripción completa de su origen. Su linaje materno incluyó Rough Purple Chili, Garnet Chili, Early Rose, y Burbank. Una versión incorrecta pero ampliamente diseminada atribuye el origen de Russet Burbank al productor de papa de Colorado Lou D. Sweet, con 1914 como a menudo dado como el año de introducción. No obstante, es probable que Russet Burbank fue liberada originalmente en 1902 como May’s Netted Gem por L. L. May & Co. (St. Paul MN). Se usaron los nombres de Netted Gem y Russet Burbank como sinónimos por muchas décadas. Datos de isoenzimas, múltiple PCR y SNP confirman a Russet Burbank como una mutación de Burbank, y no respaldan el origen por plántula. Se encontró que Russet Burbank es similar a Burbank en características de procesamiento y nutricionales. Una meta de este esfuerzo es que las descripciones del linaje de Russet Burbank y sus orígenes sean corregidos por las compañías de semilla en listas de variedades de papa y en las reservas mundiales que conserven Russet Burbank y sus progenitores.

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DJD is grateful to McGill University for sabbatical leave which enabled the preparation of this manuscript and to AAFC Potato Research Centre for hosting this sabbatical opportunity. Particular thanks are due to the staff of USDA, Agricultural Research Service, US Potato Genebank, and Plant Gene Resources Canada for their interest and support and to Andre Gionet, AAFC-Fredericton Research Librarian, for extensive library assistance. Thanks are also given to Karen Dunn at the University of Wisconsin Steenbock Memorial Library, Katherine Allen at the University of Minnesota Andersen Horticultural Library, Dorothy Stiefel at the Cornell University L. H. Bailey Hortorium, and Jenny Hodge at the UC Davis Shields Library for assistance in searching through seed catalog collections. The authors are very grateful to Dr. Richard Tarn for his comprehensive review and astute comments during manuscript preparation. We also very much appreciate the kindly and supportive editorial review process at American Journal of Potato Research.

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Correspondence to Danielle J. Donnelly.

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Paul C. Bethke and Danielle J. Donnelly contributed equally to the work.

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Bethke, P.C., Nassar, A.M.K., Kubow, S. et al. History and Origin of Russet Burbank (Netted Gem) a Sport of Burbank. Am. J. Potato Res. 91, 594–609 (2014).

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