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Univ of Idaho Extension to host Idaho Potato Conference

University of Idaho Extension will highlight the latest in news and research affecting the state’s most famous crop during the 55th Annual Idaho Potato Conference and Trade Show, scheduled for Jan. 18-19 in the Pond Student Union Building on the Idaho State University campus.  

Furthermore, event partner Spectra Productions will host a trade show featuring more than 70 booths and displays from agricultural vendors and service providers in the Student Union Building’s ballroom, and the Eastern Idaho Ag Expo, featuring the latest in potato farming equipment and innovations, will fill ISU’s Holt Arena.   

Co-chairs of the conference’s organizing committee include Kasia Duellman, UI Extension seed potato specialist; Rhett Spear, UI Extension potato variety development specialist; and Justin Hatch, UI Extension educator in Caribou County.  

“Having the trade show and Ag Expo to help attract people’s attention I think is a great marriage,” Duellman said.  

Educational sessions

The educational sessions, known informally as potato school within the industry, are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. on Jan. 18 and from 8 a.m. to noon on Jan. 19. Online registration is $40 through Jan. 13. Registration will also be available onsite during the event for $50.  

Nearly 40 sessions, including a slate of discussions in Spanish, will be offered over the course of a day and a half. McCain Foods will provide fried potato snacks. New this year, a local potato farmer is donating Teton Russet potatoes for a baked potato bar, which will be offered Jan. 18 and will include several toppings. Some presentations will be recorded and will be available on the conference website for participants to view after the event.  

“It’s an opportunity for the industry to get updated information on important issues, earn pesticide credits and network,” Duellman said. 

Diseases affecting Idaho potatoes

One session will focus on new diseases affecting Idaho potatoes, as well as updates on diseases that haven’t been detected in the state but could pose a threat. 

Duellman will offer participants an overview of rubbery rot, which UI Extension plant pathologist James Woodhall’s laboratory confirmed in collaboration with Duellman’s team for the first time in Idaho in 2019. Duellman said the tuber samples, taken from an eastern Idaho potato storage, had symptoms somewhat like pink rot or pythium leak, though they tested negative for both diseases.

Rubbery rot has also been confirmed in Michigan, North Dakota and Minnesota in recent years.  

“It seems to be associated with wounding, like some other storage diseases, as well as warmer or wetter-than-normal soils around harvest time,” Duellman said.  

In the same session, Woodhall will discuss a few highly regulated diseases the industry would like to keep out of Idaho, including potato wart and ralstonia brown rot

Presentations by potato organizations 

Also on the agenda, leaders with major potato organizations will speak before participating in a panel discussion. They include Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO Jamey Higham, National Potato Council COO Mike Wenkel and Potatoes USA CEO Blair Richardson. 

Spear will speak about an opportunity for growers to receive financial compensation to experiment with environmentally friendly agronomic practices. Spear is a participant in a USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Outcomes grant led by Oregon State University. The project, with potential funding of up to $50 million, will build climate-smart markets and advance adoption of climate-smart management systems in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Potatoes will be among the primary commodities investigated.  

Spear said the grant should entice growers to diversify crop rotations and familiarize themselves with planting cover crops – which are raised primarily for soil health benefits. Many acres are already enrolled but program funding is still available. Spear anticipates about 2,000 Idaho potato acres will be included.  

“We want to look at some of these farms before they start practices. In a few years, we’ll see how it improves the soil,” Spear said.   Additional talks will focus on general farming topics such as succession planning, farm stress awareness, leasing land, irrigation and managing weeds and voles.

Source: University of Idaho Extension
Cover image: Photo of a past Idaho Ag Expo in Holt Arena on the Idaho State University campus in Pocatello courtesy of Idaho State Journal.
John O’Connell
Assistant Director of Communications, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Kasia Duellman, UI Extension Seed Potato Specialist

Rhett Spear, UI Extension Potato Variety Development Specialist

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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