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Purple Magic spuds set to conquer world

By Chris McCullough

Published 21/04/2016

Paul Watts, potato breeder with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, with the potatoes which are purple inside too
Paul Watts, potato breeder with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, with the potatoes which are purple inside too
The potatoes are purple inside too

A unique purple potato which has been developed in Northern Ireland primarily for the US and Canadian markets, is now destined to hit the grocery shelves in Europe.

Known as Purple Magic, the variety was developed by AFBI (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute) in Loughgall as part of a Department of Agriculture funded strategic potato breeding programme focusing on the development of parental breeding lines with novel attributes.

They include potatoes with enhanced disease resistance, processing quality and, in this case, purple flesh.

The strategic breeding programme developed a series of parental lines including some with red and purple colouration in the flesh.

This was in response to research into the beneficial effects of Anthocyanins (the coloured pigments) which are a class of compounds with antioxidant and therefore possibly anti-cancer properties.

The link is still contentious, however, the general health benefits from eating highly coloured fruit and vegetables are already established to some extent.

Purple Magic is being marketed initially in Canada, due to a collaboration with Solanum Inc, through Potato Partners NI (PPNI)/KWS Potatoes BV (Netherlands), which is AFBI's commercial partner.

The Purple Magic potatoes are already in commercial production in Canada and the US, and there will be estimated production this year of up to 1,000 tonnes.

The variety can be used both for the table potato (boiling) and for crisps (chips in the US). The market for niche varieties such as these is growing in Canada and the US.

Only AFBI in Northern Ireland has stocks at the moment, but micro-propagation is underway to boost seed volumes.

As the European market for such a coloured variety develops, Purple Magic is being multiplied for trialling and registration in Europe.

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