Research Leads the Way to Quality Wisconsin Potato Chips
Most of us take for granted the quality and consistency of the potato chips we love to snack on — each chip a crisp, golden-hued delight. But not every potato variety results in an exceptional potato chip — and steps have to be taken when planting, growing, harvesting, storing and shipping the chipping potatoes to ensure optimal temperatures and sugar levels in order to produce the best end results: potato chips.
In Wisconsin, it starts with the oldest quality potato seed certification program in the nation. Since 1913, Wisconsin potato growers have had their seed potato crops certified by the Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Program (WSPCP). This program started as a collaboration between farmers and faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is currently administered through the UW-Madison Department of Plant Pathology, with oversight from the Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection.
Growing Wisconsin Chip Variety Potatoes
To improve current — and discover new — chip variety potatoes, Wisconsin potato growers partner with University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers. The key is growing potatoes that require less water and fertilizers — this not only improves the chipping potato, but protects our environment and conserves resources. In Wisconsin, we currently grow Atlantic, Marcy, MegaChip, Reba, Snowden and Superior chipping variety potatoes.
Storing and Shipping Wisconsin Chip Potatoes
In Wisconsin, we also have the one-of-a-kind multi-million dollar Hancock Potato and Vegetable Storage Research Facility. Here, researchers and growers work on creating storage conditions that produce optimal sugar levels and the best chipping potato possible.
In general, after chipping potatoes are harvested, they are stored for two to four weeks at 58F to rid the potato of excess sugars. The temperature is then dropped to between 48 and 52F. The temperature, relative humidity, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels of the storage facility are monitored and controlled to maximize the storage life of the potatoes. The sucrose and glucose levels of the chipping potatoes are monitored as well.
And the process doesn’t end there. When we ship potatoes, we do so in specialized vehicles that mimic the optimal temperature, humidity and ventilation of the storage environment.