The Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station, also known as the UW Lelah Starks Potato Breeding Farm, has been a home for University potato breeding research for over 50 years. The station was made possible through a gift of stock from the estate of Lelah Starks, a pioneer Wisconsin seed potato grower. Starks left the UW one-fourth of the corporation stock as designated in her will. The corporation, Starks Farms, Inc., owned and operated her seed potato farm near Rhinelander. In time, the University exchanged a portion of its stock for the parcel of land that is now the Rhinelander Station. The University has used this property for potato breeding since before the death of Lelah Starks in 1951. It remains a primary site for ongoing research related to potato production. Many studies mapping the basic nature of the genetics of the potato have been carried on at this facility, resulting in national and international recognition through numerous publications and the release of new and improved potato varieties including Antigo, Red Beauty, Superior, Wischip, Oneida, Rhinered, Snowden , MegaChip, and most recently, Lelah, Tundra, Nicolet and Accumulator. In 2014 we released Oneida Gold and Red Endeavor.
The Rhinelander Station supports the research, instruction and outreach efforts of UW-Madison scientists in developing the Wisconsin state potato variety breeding program and solving problems of agricultural and natural resource management in northern Wisconsin.
Located in Oneida County on 235 acres of loamy sand soil, the Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station is used primarily for research on potato breeding. These studies involve genetics and cytogenetics, the breeding of new varieties, the development of breeding methods, and the incorporation of desirable genes from the wild potato project on the Peninsular Agricultural Research Station, Sturgeon Bay, WI.
The potatoes are grown in rotation with oats, clover, or sudan grass.
Significant opportunities exist to research natural resource questions on-site, or to utilize the station as a staging ground for off-site investigations.
Research and Teaching Facilities
The two-story headquarters building includes a conference room for 50 persons, offices, laboratory rooms and potato storage facilities.
Six greenhouses equipped with irrigation and chemigration, a soil-steaming facility and a shade house are used to grow seedlings, tuberlings and transplants for hybridization, grafting and production of minitubers and true seed.
The Willis building is used for potato storage sorting and testing.
A mechanical shop is used to maintain tractors, vehicles and machinery for field work and the Cleary building is used for equipement storage.
Forest plantations and native timber stands are used for forestry research and breeding.