LUTHER BURBANK "FATHERS" THE IDAHO® POTATO
The ten tubers that Burbank took with him to California appeared to be the nuclear stock for the introduction of the Burbank variety to the West Coast states. By 1906, over six-million bushels of Burbank's were produced in these states. As late as 1949, 37,517 bushels of certified seed of Burbank were produced in California, Oregon, and Washington.
The fact that Burbank subsequently grew more than one-half million seedlings from a deliberate hybridization program without producing another successful variety is also of interest.
The potato that Idaho made famous was not exactly a Burbank. The Burbank variety is a smooth-skinned, long, white potato and the Russet Burbank variety, which Idaho grows, has a slightly rough, reticulated skin commonly termed "netted" as a Netted Gem, a common synonym for Russet Burbank's.
According to Luther Burbank, the Russet Burbank was originated by a man in Denver, Colorado, who evidently selected a chance sport out of Burbank. Burbank stated that, "These Burbank potatoes raised by Lon D. Sweet of Denver, Colorado, have modified their coat in a way that does not add to their attractiveness. It is said, however, that this particular variant is particularly resistant to blight, which gives it exceptional value."
Although "blight" was a rather-general term that could be applied to a numerous array of conditions, as used by Burbank in his 1914 writings, the truth is that the Russet Burbank does have considerable resistance to a number of potato tuber diseases. The appearance of the Russet mute or sport in the Burbank variety has tended to be somewhat obscure and writers have elected to cite the origin as unknown. When Burbank and Russet Burbank are grown together, their differences are almost nil. The Russeting of the tuber seems to be the major observable difference. The Russet mutation appears to involve only the outer layers of the tuber.
Mutation from the Russeted mutation back to the original smooth-skin Burbank type has been observed. The smooth-skinned reverse mutant appears to be indistinguishable from the original Burbank variety.