story to find out more.
Technicians David Torrey (left) and Leanne
Matthiesen inspect early growth of Russet Burbank potatoes, the potato of
choice for french fry processors. Click the image for more information
New Software Aids Northeast's Potato Farmers
By Erin Peabody
December 13, 2005
A trip to Maine wouldnt be
complete without the taste of buttery lobster, sweet blueberry pie and of
course, potatoes--whether theyre mashed, scalloped or French fried. After
all, potatoes are nearly iconic in the state, having been cultivated there for
at least 240 years.
And now, thanks to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, Maines potato
growers have a new resource that could help them enjoy higher yields and engage
in more eco-friendly farming practices.
The technology should be a welcome tool for the regions tuber farmers,
who like potato farmers across the country, must react to ever-changing disease
threats, unpredictable weather--and even nutritional fads like low-carb diets.
After several years of studies, ARS researchers at the
England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Orono have produced a
software package that addresses one of growers most pressing concerns:
Which rotations work best for potatoes?
According to research leader
Honeycutt, farmers want more research on this topic, since the practice of
growing potatoes year after year often leads to disease buildup, reduced soil
fertility and flat profits.
With the right rotation, a potato farmer can suppress disease, enhance soil
nutrient content, and boost crop productivity--all while reducing chemical
inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides.
The labs completed product, known as the Potato Systems
Planner, weaves together all of the ARS researchers findings on
14 different rotations for potatoes.
Especially promising, the scientists discovered, is canola. This oilseed
crop produces potent sulfur compounds that can knock down problematic soil
diseases. A natural field sanitizer, canola can be cultivated between potato
plantings to reduce the incidence of potato-plaguing diseases like powdery scab
and Rhizoctonia fungus.
The software also features an economic calculator that allows growers to
estimate the potential profitability of a given cropping scenario.
more about this research in the current issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.