KIMBERLY, Idaho-In Xiyao Wang's Sichuan Province of Southern China, professional growers hand harvest seed potatoes from home garden-sized fields and pile potatoes in caves or their own guest bedrooms for storage.
Following a three-month scientific exchange with the University of Idaho, Wang, a potato researcher at Sichuan Agricultural University, expects to return home with knowledge to improve her region's production methods. Her hosts at the UI's Kimberly Research & Extension Center say Wang has also made contributions to their understanding of storage management and the crop disease zebra chip.
UI Extension potato storage specialist Nora Olsen learned the Chinese make a powder from an invasive species, commonly called Crofton weed, to suppress sprouting in seed potatoes.
"That's a potential application we need to look at as a sprout inhibitor," Olsen said.
Wang was intrigued by zebra chip, a potato disease the Chinese don't have that arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 2011. To better understand why plants seldom grow from infected potatoes, Wang applied varying rates of sprout-stimulating hormones to samples with zebra chip. Olsen was surprised to learn the research had never been done.
Jeff Suttle, with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Fargo, N.D., has agreed to continue the project Wang started.
SOURCE: John O'Connell, Capital Press