From romantic Zorachka to categorical Manifest

Every year, Belarusian selectors come up with a new variety of potato: our ‘second bread’ — as grown in Russia, China, Ukraine, Latvia, Armenia and Uzbekistan
By Valentina Smirnova

Novelties amaze
There is a potato to suit every taste, with so many textures of flesh and colour to choose from. The National Academy of Sciences is now working on inter-breeding wild varieties with coloured flesh, as are popular in the South African tropics. In the wild, such potatoes can lack flavour and, of course, are not suited to our climate. However, by creating hybrids, the tubers with white-pink to dark-purple flesh can boast a flavour similar to our usual potatoes. In addition, the new variety boasts less starch and more antioxidants (thought to increase our resistance to oncological diseases), as well as more minerals, vitamins and protein.

Regional selection
Belarusian potatoes come in a staggering number of varieties, with the Grodno Region leading in the quality and volume of its harvests. Over the past four years, four new varieties have been developed: Falvarak and Maximum (in 2012) and Zorachka and Vectar (in 2013). 

Nina Khokh, who supervises the Potato Department at the local institution, explains, “Among our best table varieties are moist Zorachka and the mid-late season Vectar, which is suitable for frying. The mid-early Falvarak is good for frying and mashing, having a high level of starch (up to 30 percent).” Next spring, the Grodno Region’s farms will be offered around 80 tonnes of the super-elite Vectar variety, which is already being grown in small quantities in the Berestovitsa, Volkovysk, Voronovo and Lida districts. Meanwhile, a micro-clonal propagation laboratory has begun breeding Manifest, Lada and Volat varieties.

Test-tube potatoes
Some agro-facilities in the Grodno Region produce seeds in tubes for local farms. Maloberestovsky Elitkhoz is among them, having been growing elite potatoes for over two decades. Its laboratory uses special tubes for the task, producing over 80,000 plants from 500 tubes. They produce succulent table variety Zorachka, which harvests from late July and can be stored until January, as well as Vectar and Manifest.

Choosing names
Vadim Makhanko, Departmental Head at the Grodno Institute of Potato Growing, tells us that choosing names is viewed with great importance — such as romantic Zorachka (Star) or categorical Manifest. “To invent a new name, you need inspiration, and this is always something very personal. We’re primarily guided by the rule that the name should reflect our national personality (such as Volat, Falvarak and Zorachka), so that it’s recognisable abroad. For example, if Russians hear the name Volat, they know immediately that this potato comes from Belarus.” 
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