Knowing Your Roots

Archive for the ‘Potatoes’ Category

Potatoes—not just for dinner anymore!

Blog 13

People love potatoes!  They are fresh, healthy and full of nutrients; they are synonymous with comfort food.  Who can refuse mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, fresh potato bars during winter or grilled potatoes in the summer?  Then there’s potato salad at picnics, potato pancakes with sour cream, and who can resist, fries with burgers. People love them all!

Interestingly enough, however, potatoes are now used for much more than just human consumption.  Log onto Pinterest and you can find many interesting alternatives for potatoes, like cleaning silverware, removing rust or creating homemade stamps!   (more…)

Potato Growers Looking to the Future

Blog 12

Twenty potato growers from all over the Wisconsin converged on Madison last week for their annual “grill the professors” ritual. They came from Eagle River to Spring Green and Coloma to Plover and grow for fries, chips, fresh market and seed.

It’s an eclectic bunch, but they all have one thing in common — they are very good at growing potatoes and are committed to getting even better.

Like the best corporations in the U.S., Wisconsin potato growers are pretty sure that the only way to do this and keep the competitive edge they enjoy is to invest in the future — research and development is where the new ideas emerge, and new technologies are hammered into useful tools.

To make this happen, growers tax themselves annually to provide a source of funds that can be used to promote potato sales and fund research. It is only 6 cents per 100 pounds of potatoes, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But when you are the third largest producing state in the U.S., with around 62,000 acres averaging almost 45,000 pounds per acre, it adds up fast!

As a result, these growers come to Madison every year with over $350,000 to invest in research. They ask University of Wisconsin faculty to present proposals that will move the potato industry forward.

Proposals can be applied research to solve today’s problems or basic research that may not bring returns for a decade or more. Basic or applied, proposals are all treated the same- the faculty present ideas and hypotheses and then are questioned by the growers. If it’s good science, then it stands a chance!

The faculty members in the biological sciences, who are among the world’s best, respond enthusiastically. This year 27 proposals from 14 UW departments and program areas were submitted, which took growers two days to examine. They will meet again in a month to decide which projects will be funded.

The diversity of 2016 proposals was indeed broad and beyond the scope of this blog to include them all. A few examples will provide an idea of what it takes to stay on top in today’s competitive agricultural world.

Since potatoes are an irrigated crop, water conservation is the highest priority for the industry. This was reflected in six proposals that included: working with DNR staff to incentivize good irrigation practices; economic impacts of water; bringing water users together to discuss solutions at the local level; maintaining water quality; understanding effects of pumping on surface water in streams and lake sand analyzing groundwater fluctuations in a network of over 600 high capacity wells.

We all have our favorite kinds of potatoes — reds, yellows, whites, blues, chips, bakers, mashers — the list seems endless thanks to the Mendelian wizards in the potato breeding field.  These gurus presented four proposals to develop new, tasty and interesting new varieties in the years to come.

Protecting the potato crop from pests like insects, diseases, weeds and nematodes, an area where Wisconsin growers are already recognized as world leaders, garnered 10 proposals indicating that there will be no slowdown in this area any time soon.

Basic research abounded in this year’s proposals with at least 10 proposals using state-of-the-art molecular techniques as tools to develop new varieties faster; understand the role of genes in pest virulence, and examining how pests become resistant to our attempts to control them.

Finally, there are the ideas that are unusual but full of promise. Good examples from this year included: developing a natural community workbook to support restoration and conservation of Wisconsin’s natural ecosystems; delving into the mysterious world of soil microbes and soil health to examine how the millions of organisms down there exist together in harmony but sometimes get unbalanced and cause problems and finally, extracting antioxidants from potato peel to supply the increasing demand from the manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries for specialty potato byproducts.

This is an amazing assemblage of science and innovation, and Wisconsin’s potato grower support the bulk of it. The potato industry gets no federal handouts or subsidies and is used to forging its own future. So think of this at Thanksgiving this year as you tuck into those delicious mashed potatoes!

Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Grant and In-Store Promotions for Healthy Grown® Potatoes

The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) is working on expanding in-state sales and recognition of Healthy Grown potatoes – certified as  ecologically grown, socially responsible,  and ecosystem friendly – and they taste great – what a bargain!

This promotion was made possible thanks to a grant awarded from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection agency’s “Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin” program.

This grant is helping the WPVGA publicize the Wisconsin Healthy Grown program and feature its ecologically grown fresh potatoes, which have put Wisconsin on the leading edge of sustainable potato production.

The Wisconsin Healthy Grown program started in 2000 with a strictly enforced, research-based production standard that differentiated these potatoes from others in the marketplace by its reliance on biologically-based approaches to managing pests. It has since expanded to encompass all aspects of sustainability, including environmentally sound production practices, a fair economic return to growers, social responsibility in the rural communities where the potatoes are grown and, most recently, a requirement to restore natural ecosystems on farms.    (more…)

Wisconsin Healthy Grown® – Leading the way for high-bar sustainability standards

Blog 10

Striving for sustainability, particularly in the marketplace, is something most people desire but what exactly does it mean?

Sustainability is a process of producing something that balances the environmental, societal and economic needs for the good of everyone.

Here at New Family Farm, we understand the need to preserve the environmental integrity of the grower’s fields, the ecological services they provide and the landscapes of which they are a part.

We recognize the societal role that our farms play in fostering local communities by providing employment and opportunities for those who live there.

We know farmers need to be economically solvent, to remain in business and continue to grow the food we all depend on. Balancing all of these factors is what sustainability really means!   (more…)

Potato Late Blight: How Growers are Overcoming the Challenge

Potato late blight has been detected in Wisconsin, but don’t think this disease has the upper hand when it comes to your vegetables. Wisconsin’s potato and vegetable growers are staying ahead of the curve to properly manage this fast-moving community disease to ensure a healthy and adequate food supply.

First, a bit of background on late blight. This disease can be a serious problem to everyone growing potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and similar crops with no distinction between commercial growers, garden centers or home gardeners.

The fungus causing this devastating disease (Phytophthora infestans) is the same organism that caused the Irish potato famine and brought mass starvation to Europe in the late 1800s by destroying the Irish potato crop.

Fortunately, the organism in its current form cannot survive Wisconsin’s winters. The soundest way to control the problem is to inspect seed tubers and host transplants coming into the state, and limiting the protected sites where it might be able to survive by destroying all potato waste from storage.

However, in spite of best efforts to limit the introduction of the disease, when weather conditions are perfect for development, potato late blight can still slip through and quickly become a problem.

Wisconsin’s growers and University of Wisconsin specialists have an extensive monitoring program to determine if the disease is present in the state and due to this diligence, potato late blight was confirmed in Wisconsin this year on June 26th.   (more…)

Tag Cloud