Cultivation/Production, North America, Weather/Climate

Idaho potatoes, hurt by smoky skies in wildfire season, give researchers clues to crops’ climate future

As increasing heat makes fire seasons longer and more intense, a team of scientists is looking to this U.S. state to see what might happen to potato yields – and their findings could have huge implications for North America’s food supply, as Nathan Vanderklippe reports in a news story published by The Globe and Mail.

It was in 2012 that Dr. Addie Waxman, who holds a PhD in potato science, started to notice a problem in the potato fields in Washington state, walking through smoke so thick she could barely see, and noticed that some of the potato plants looked as if they were shrivelling earlier than expected.

Could the smoke be to blame? “I was like, whoa, I think that’s something we ought to know more about,” she said.

A decade later, Dr. Waxman, now the manager of agronomy for McCain Foods, is watching carefully as a group of scientists work to answer that question in Idaho. The research group is midway through a two-year study designed to tease out how smoke affects everything from the size of a potato tuber to its chemical composition, from its durability in storage to the colour of the French fries it yields.

The results could have important implications not just for McCain, but also for the vast agricultural industry in the western parts of the continent – and the fast-food appetites of a continent.

Source: The Globe and Mail. Read the full story here
Photo: A crown fire moves through a mixed conifer forest during the 2016 Pioneer Fire in southern Idaho. Credit Kari Greer/U.S. Forest Service via Univ of Idaho
Related: Study to determine impact of wildfire smoke on Idaho potato crops, seeks to identify smoke-resilient varieties

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