Leafhoppers are a serious pest for organic potato growers in the Northeast. Too small to remove from plants by hand, they cause considerable reductions in yield each year.
For the past several decades the Cornell potato breeding program, in conjunction with Dr. Ward Tingey of Cornell`s Department of Entomology, have been working to develop new potato varieties with sticky leaf hairs that trap and impede small insect pests. To introduce these leaf hairs, cultivated potato was first crossed with a wild potato species, Solanum berthaultii, and the hybrid was then crossed back to potato many times to eliminate unfavorable characters. After each generation, individuals with resistance to insects were identified, and used for crossing in subsequent years.
In 2006 we released a potato variety, King Harry, that exhibits resistance to leafhoppers. We anticipate that this variety will find favor with organic growers and home gardeners in the Northeast who wish to grow potatoes without applying insecticide.