In this current blog series we have been featuring graduate student research on potatoes in Wisconsin, and so far we have covered research in plant breeding, seed production and pest management. We are concluding this student series with 4 blogs on a topic that has emerged as one of the most critical issues facing agriculture today—water. Will there be a sufficient supply in the coming decades to maintain the productivity and security of our nation’s food supply while guaranteeing the long-term sustainability of the resource in future generations for all to enjoy?
In Wisconsin, the issue of water and its availability is particularly acute in the Central Sands region, which is one of the top five vegetable growing regions in the nation where potatoes, sweet corn, green beans, peas, carrots and cucumbers all rank near the top of U.S. production. The foundation of the region’s productivity lies in its geological history, which began during the glacial ice age that encompassed Wisconsin over 15,000 years ago. The Central Sands is a large and relatively flat glacial outwash plain that deposited abundant sandy soils—ideal for vegetable production—and is underlain by a deep groundwater aquifer that provides the water, vital for crop growth and productivity.
The region covers nearly 1,400 square miles and now supports 200,000 irrigated acres, but prior to the 1950s it was not farmed because there was no efficient way to utilize the abundant water supply and as such, much of the area remained undeveloped. In the mid-1950s, however, this largely unused, resource-poor area was transformed rapidly when modern irrigation technology became available and affordable due to aluminum supplies increasing after World War II. This raw material provided farmers the ability to build and deploy the center pivot irrigation systems that could, for the first time, deliver water to 160 acre crop fields in less than 24 hours. This quickly transformed the regional economic landscape into a thriving specialty crop production area which now supports a $6.4 billion food production industry and generates close to 40,000 jobs within the state of Wisconsin. (more…)
This is a wonderful time of year when winter grudgingly gives way to spring and our next growing season. From my third story office windows in Antigo I have the opportunity to see trucks hauling seed potatoes from our seed farms in northern Wisconsin to our commercial farms in the Central Sands and beyond. This flurry of activity lasts for several weeks as farms take in, cut, treat, suberize and warm the seed in preparation for planting. Like many things in Wisconsin, potatoes can be very unique. We have a multitude of types and varieties to choose from. These types and varieties are very specific in their purpose. Certain types are better for certain uses. There are many russet varieties, some have cooking characteristics for home and restaurant use, we call fresh or table potatoes. While other russets, are best suited for frying (process / frozen). (more…)
Image: 3 kinds of genetic engineering defined
By: KJHvM http://www.biofortified.org
The heated battle over using genetic technology in our food systems has continued for over a decade and shows little sign of cooling down. From the early days of herbicide tolerance in corn and soybeans to the fast growing salmon of today, the battle lines are firmly drawn and rarely seem to waiver. On the one hand, concerned consumers in the US, Europe and elsewhere, accuse GM foods of being unnatural and the companies that develop them as business seeking to control the world’s seeds. On the other hand, farmers worldwide have embraced GM foods as an exciting new technology that provides higher yields and allows them to use fewer and safer pesticides to increase the sustainability of their farms.
Well, as we all dig our heels deeper in this battle, a new wave of technological innovations that are set to change the face of the world’s food production systems are quickly ramping-up. The GMOs or transgenics we are familiar with (but that most of us never quite understood at a deep level) involved introducing a genetic trait from one organism into another unrelated one; like it or not, they may be becoming old hat. As science has begun to unravel the intricacies of the genetic code and understand how life works at the molecular level, it may no longer be necessary to put something new into a plant to get a desired end result. The ability to simply tweak what nature already provides in the plant without changing its genetic makeup or adding new traits is a reality. This is the new world of world of cisgenics; simply turning a gene on or off within the plant’s genome or adding a gene from a different cultivar of the same species to elicit traits in that have hitherto been unattainable. In some ways this could be described as the traditional breeding of Mendel on hyper-drive. (more…)
Now that harvest is well under way, it’s time to start looking toward our packaging facilities. At Wysocki Produce Farm, that means working side-by-side with our sister company and packaging facility, Paragon Potato Farms (Paragon). However, moving our focus to packaging doesn’t mean we don’t need to keep thinking about our impact on the environment. (more…)
A recent blog post mentioned how important technology has become in the potato farming industry, and one of the biggest technological helpers is guidance. By using guidance systems on our machinery that use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, farms like ours, Wysocki Produce Farm, can make field operations much more efficient and sustainable. We added guidance systems to our farm about eight years ago, and it’s made a huge difference for our crops, our environmental impact and our staff. (more…)