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McDonald’s OKs New Dakota Russet Potato Variety for its French Fries

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The most recent spud to join the list of approved McDonald’s Restaurant potato varieties is the Dakota Russet, developed at North Dakota State University (NDSU) by Asunta Thompson , associate professor of plant science and potato breeder. The uniform, blocky tubers feature white flesh and golden russet skin that is well suited for fry applications.

The variety produces low sugars, which results in consistent french fry color and less undesired defects like dark ends. Improved fry texture consistency can be attributed to the potatoes’ high specific gravity and consistent internal dry matter distribution (solids).

“This is a dream come true,” said Thompson (pictured above). “Having our Russet accepted by McDonald’s for their french fries is the gold standard we all strive for. Cultivar development takes a team, and this difficult achievement would not have been possible without support from the NDSU potato improvement team, potato farmers and agriculture partners.”

She added: ”My goal since returning to NDSU in 2001 was to identify superior cultivars across market types. I focused on earlier maturity which would allow greater opportunity for economic and environmental sustainability for our farmers, while helping address the challenge of feeding the world.”

The cross (traditional hybridization) was made in 1999 and Thompson selected the seedling in the single-hill nursery in the fall of 2001. The variety was officially named and released in 2012. The approval process for the Dakota Russet to be accepted by McDonald’s was completed in March of 2022.

The Dakota Russet is one of eight varieties accepted in North America. The most recent additions to the McDonald’s North American varieties were in 2016.

“Our world famous fries always start with potatoes. We couldn’t be more excited to introduce Dakota Russet to our quality group of potato varieties used to produce them,” said Daniel Roche, global quality system manager for agricultural products at McDonalds. “We spend years testing new potato varieties before they are introduced to our suppliers and restaurants – including rigorous testing for quality, sensory and consumer validation – to ensure all the potatoes we use meet our high standards. The Dakota Russet has delivered a great appearance, flavor and texture – producing the same great taste our customers love.”

The new variety was developed with the needs of US Midwest farmers in mind, producing consistently high yields and fitting the shorter growing season with its medium maturity. The variety also thrives in a wide range of climatic conditions. It is extremely resilient, demonstrating resistance to several of the common diseases typically present in potatoes.

“The excellent and consistent agronomic and processing performances of Dakota Russet is exactly the kind of quality potato McDonald’s looks to use, prompting us to pursue approval,” said Tina Brandt, variety development manager at J.R. Simplot Company.

Carl Hoverson of Hoverson Farms, and partner with Ron Offutt and R.D. Offutt Farms, commented: “Based on national testing and grower evaluation, the Dakota Russet is widely adapted across North America. It also thrives during a shorter growing season, which is important with the variable weather conditions we experience here in the Midwest. With this variety we are able to consistently obtain an excellent fry quality.”

The highly successful traits of this variety help to improve agronomic sustainability by producing more quality potatoes per acre.

“The development of the Dakota Russet, and its acceptance from McDonald’s as a potato variety speaks to the innovative research happening here at NDSU and at our NDSU Agriculture Experiment Stations.Our talented researchers work hard to contribute to the success of our state and the world,” said NDSU President David Cook.