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Penn State potato research program chips in with valuable insights for industry

Pennsylvania is no couch potato when it comes to producing one of America’s favorite snack foods. The commonwealth has more potato chip manufacturers than any other state in the United States, according to Robert Leiby, agronomist for Pennsylvania Co-Operative Potato Growers.

He said those manufacturers rely on the state’s potato industry, which produces about 83,000 tons of potatoes each year, primarily white potatoes used to make the popular snack.

The growers, in turn, depend on the potato research program in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences to help improve the quality and quantity of their crops while staying abreast of consumer trends.

“Not only is the potato important in our diet, but it’s a valuable agricultural asset in Pennsylvania that accounts for thousands of jobs and more than $1 billion in economic impact,” said Leiby, who spent 37 years as a Penn State Extension educator in Lehigh County. “This industry is strengthened by scientists and extension educators at Penn State.”

Penn State’s potato research program, led by Xinshun Qu, associate research professor, is under the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology.

The team works closely with potato growers to identify commercial potato production and disease problems and conducts laboratory and field experiments designed to provide critical information to solve these problems. The researchers share their findings through Penn State Extension programs and a publicly available annual report.

All growers benefit from Penn State’s research and outreach, noted Keith Masser, chairman and chief executive officer of Sterman Masser Potato Farms, an eight-generation family operation headquartered in Schuylkill County. The company grows and packages a wide range of potato varieties for national retailers.

Without Penn State, growers would be disadvantaged, Masser pointed out, especially smaller farms that do not have the resources to conduct research.

Source: Penn State News. Read the full story here

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