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US: Multi-state potato research analyzes improving soil health

It’s called the kitchen sink treatment among the scientists involved in a four-year, 10-state research project analyzing how to replenish depleted soils in potato rotations.

Essentially, the researchers throw “everything but the kitchen sink” into improving soil health in their plots — fertilizing with composted dairy manure and planting a crop as “green manure” between rotation crops.

Green manure maintains living roots to limit erosion and to “leak” additional nutrients, before being plowed into the earth to further boost organic matter.

The research project â€” heading into its second season in major potato production states including Idaho — is evaluating more than a dozen treatments in two- and three-year potato rotations. The goal is to determine which treatments are best at boosting soil health, what makes them work and whether or not they’re cost effective.×

“You hear a lot of people talk about the need to improve our soils, and I believe that’s true — I don’t know any grower who doesn’t want to improve their soils — but in the end it’s got to pay for itself,” said Jeff Miller, who is maintaining trial plots for the project at Rupert-based Miller Research.

The project is funded with an $8 million Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant, offered through the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture. It includes 24 research collaborators from Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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