Finding a market for a new specialty spud – MonDak Gold

Farm Forum

FARGO, N.D. – A newly renamed Williston (N.D.) Area Ag Diversification Group is requesting $101,000 from the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission to promote a new, branded potato variety – MonDak Gold.

Jerry Bergman, chairman of the group, says MonDak Gold was developed by Christian Thill of the University of Minnesota.

“We’ve been cooperating and testing both North Dakota State University and University of Minnesota breeding lines for 15 years,” says Bergman, who is also director of the Williston Research Extension Center. “This one is a multi-use variety that has pink-to-red skin and yellow flesh. It’s unique – excellent for French fries, chips and table stock.”

The variety is thought to be an improvement over Yukon gold because it has fewer internal quality problems, such as “yellow heart” disease.

The 2014 crop year will be the first year the potatoes can be grown commercially. There likely will be seed to plant two pivots.

MonDak Gold has been under seed generation increase for the past three years. It’s been at Enander Seed Farm in Grenora, N.D., for the mini-tubers and so-called G1 or generation-one potatoes. The potatoes were sent to Countryside Seed Co. of Alliance, Neb., this year to grow the G2s.

Bergman says the Williston group will feature the variety at the National Potato Council Expo in January in San Antonio, Texas. The group has been attending the national event for four years, as it moves around the country.

The $101,000 from APUC would be used to supply product to interested end-users for table stock, French fry and specialty product markets. Those include the fresh pack and restaurant markets, as well as grocery store chains and potato processors. This will be promoted as a niche specialty variety.

“They won’t commit to them until they do their own testing,” Bergman says. “Usually you have to provide those products to them.”

MonDak Gold represents a critical juncture for the region, Bergman says. “We’ve been doing potato research to identify what varieties perform well in this region and will be used for specialty marketing, because that’s often a premium market,” he says.

“The ultimate goal is to attract a processor here in this region. This is one way to get attention to a broad area. Some of these potatoes may be grown elsewhere but the test marketing, I think, will help create interest in this region and expand potato production, and hopefully bring a wash plant to this area.

“Our motto has always been, ‘Not if, but when,’ but things never do happen overnight,” he says. Both university programs have other promising lines that could be adapted in the area, Bergman says.