Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) has a rich genetic reservoir with thousands of Andean landraces and over 100 wild species. Potato breeders have been using these exotic germplasms since early 1900s (Plaisted and Hoopes 1989; Ross 1986). Nevertheless, genetic poverty is always concerned, primarily because modern potato breeding was started with only a few clones (Mendosa and Haynes 1974; Plaisted and Hoopes 1989).
Old varieties Irish Cobbler and May Queen, introduced into Japan more than a century ago, have long been top two varieties for table potatoes in Japan, although their percentages are gradually decreasing. Cv. Toyoshiro and cv. Konafubuki were released in 1976 and 1981, and have become the most widely grown varieties for chipping and starch production, respectively. In the past three decades, many new varieties were released, but have never conquered existing varieties. Since an initial cross for cv. Konafubuki in 1971, new gene combinations created by crosses were tested and tested for over 40 years. Nevertheless, superior gene combinations did not appear. So, we realized that our gene pool does not have enough genetic variation anymore, although we continuously introduced foreign varieties to our breeding program.
Our mission is to develop parental lines that have large potentiality for yield and biotic and abiotic stresses using exotic germplasms from Andean landraces and wild species. Developed parental lines are provided to potato breeders who develop commercial varieties.
Potato Genetics Laboratory was opened at Kobe University on February 1, 1990 (till March 31, 2010).
We moved, and established a new Potato Genetics Laboratory at NARO Hokkaido Agricultural Research Center on April 1, 2010 (till March 31, 2013) with a full financial support from Calbee Inc.
We moved again, and finally founded Potato Germplasm Enhancement Laboratory at Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine on April 1, 2013 (till present) with full financial supports from Calbee Inc., Hokkaido Potato Growers Association, Kewpie Corp., KENKO Mayonnaise Co., Ltd., and Japan Snack Cereal Foods Association, and by personal donation from Mr. Masahiko Matsuo (passed away on February 12, 2018 at the age of 76), a leader of a founder family of Calbee Inc.