Peruvian Harvest

Published in the September 2011 Issue Published online: Sep 14, 2011 Tyler J. Baum, Editor
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Summer is wrapping up and harvest will be commencing soon. Harvest in North America is a little different than harvest where the potato was more or less born, what is now the Republic of Peru.

The western South American country of Peru is a developing nation with a market-oriented economy-its 2010 per capita income is estimated by the IMF at $5,195-divided into three geographic regions: the coast, the highlands and the jungle. The highlands region is where the Andes are found and where potatoes are grown.

In this issue is an article written by Terry A. Tindall, a senior agronomist for J.R. Simplot Company. In it he explains the work that he and his colleagues have done recently to help Peruvian growers take their agronomics to the next level in a greater effort to support themselves and their families.

While many environmentalists may lament some modern agricultural practices-and while many U.S. consumers show tendencies of being afraid of the same-Peruvian growers are striving to modernize their growing practices so they can increase yields. I don't know much about the true relationship of organic versus conventional, and I'm always open to learning more, but it seems to me that growing potatoes in Peru is as natural and "organic" as it comes.

According to The Hand That Feeds US (www.thehandthatfeedsus.org), feeding the world with organics alone is "unrealistic." They state: "In 2003, the National Center for Food and Policy calculated that in order to continue to produce current crop yields without herbicides-which are a no-no in an organic, locally grown world-an additional 70 million farmhands would be needed. In other words, one in four Americans would be pulling weeds on farms for a month out of the year.

"Plus, according to the late Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, organic agriculture can only feed a world of 4 billion people, meaning 2.5 billion would need to check out early. And, all-organics all the time would be an environmental disaster: According to Jay Lehr, Ph.D., science director of The Heartland Institute, `Direct, field-to-field comparisons show organic farms produce up to 50 percent less than conventional farms,' meaning that we'd need to put up to twice as much land under the plow to produce the same amount of food."

When I interviewed Chad Neibaur of Bancroft, Idaho, last winter as the Idaho Seed Grower of the Year, I learned how much he enjoys integrating organic practices into his growing. However, he's not a certified organic grower because, as he says, "I still like to control weeds."

The link to the "Fact or Fiction" article on the website for The Hand That Feeds US has been an Extra on our website for about a year now, so I've bumped it up to the top of the page as a good reminder. This is information to share with those who are less educated when it comes to agriculture.

I wish you all a productive and safe harvest this season.

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