Amid very odd winter patterns, growers and industry leaders gathered in Pocatello, Idaho, for the 44th annual University of Idaho Potato Conference and 33rd annual Ag Expo, held January 17-19.
With little to no snow on the ground in the valley, weather forecasts during the week threatened snow and wind. Mother Nature delivered on the wind but stingily held back on the snow, only delivering dry flurries now and again, ultimately turning to rain on Friday.
Despite the weather patterns, the venue was jam-packed with growers eager to keep up with the latest topics, network and, of course, chow on free, hot fries and tater tots, courtesy of Simplot.
This year's theme was "Staying Ahead of the Game." One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from Dr. Joe Munyaneza, research entomologist for the USDA-A RS in Wapato, Wash., who has become one of the leading experts on one of this year's hottest topics-zebra chip. He spoke on the threat zebra chip, also known as ZC, poses for the seed sector and the industry in general.
He explained that zebra chip is caused by a new bacteria strain, liberibactor, which is carried by potato psyllids. Potato psyllids are about the same size as aphids, which is about the same size as Lincoln's nose on a penny. Known as "jumping lice," female psyllids can lay up to 500 eggs. Their nymphs look much like white fly nymphs. They've been found as far north as Canada, but nowhere east of the Mississippi in the continental U.S.
In addition to the topics of ZC and aphids, a panel of experts from the industry and the University of Idaho presented a discussion on phosphorus management, Rob Davidson (Colorado State University) spoke on growing Norkotah strains, Alan Schreiber (Agriculture Development Group) spoke on new concepts in insect management and USPB chair Todd Michael gave growers an update on USPB activities.
Wednesday evening, a silent auction and live auction was held by Potato Growers of Idaho, which raises money for the Idaho Potato Political Action Committee, held at the Red Lion Inn in conjunction with a reception sponsored by Spectra Productions. There, the Growers of the Year (Randy and Karlene Hardy) and Seed Grower of the Year (Dirk Parkinson) were awarded.