The Best Offense

Preparation the Theme at Idaho Potato Conference

Published in the March 2014 Issue Published online: Mar 16, 2014 Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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“Defense wins championships.”

How many times have you heard that from the talking heads and ex-coaches on ESPN? It’s been proven time and again in the world of sports, none more recently or forcefully than in the Seattle Seahawks’ demolition of the Denver Broncos’ high-flying attack in the Super Bowl a month ago.

Defense seemed to be the theme at the 46th Annual Idaho Potato Conference Jan. 21-23 at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. At a time in which growers face uncertainty about everything from drought to chemical-resistant pests to political gridlock, preparation for the both the known and unknown is being preached.

“One thing we’re really worried about is neonicotinoid insecticides and insect resistance,” said University of Idaho entomologist Erik Wenninger. He cited particularly both the Colorado potato beetle’s and the green peach aphid’s apparent ability to quickly adapt and develop resistance to neonicotinoids and other pesticides as evidence that growers may need to change their pesticide and crop rotation programs to combat these pests.

“The long residual of neonics may encourage the development of resistance,” Wenninger said. “So if you can have a few fields without neonics at all, you’ll dilute the insects’ resistance.”

University of Idaho extension soil specialist Amber Moore was on hand to help growers to understand the differences between various nutrient deficiencies and diseases that could express similar symptoms. “Soil and petiole tests are much, much better at determining deficiency than a visual,” Moore said, but she offered five tips for making their diagnoses:

Examine the distribution of symptoms. A deficiency will affect a whole field; disease appearance is more sporadic.

Look for “vein jumping.” Deficiency symptoms stay within leaf veins; diseases don’t.

“Look for bugs.”

Know what cultivars are susceptible to what diseases and deficiencies.

Understand your crop rotations—for example, calico is known to appear more often in potatoes following alfalfa in a rotation.

Other defensive-minded presentations at the Conference included accountant Jeff Siler’s advice to growers to form an estate plan; U of I’s Howard Neibling irrigation management advice for times of drought; and presentations on protecting against all-too-familiar foes like bacterial ring rot, zebra chip and potato nematodes. Through it all, the message was clear: Prepare yourself early, and the rest will work itself out.

Legendary University of Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp said, “Your defense will save you on the nights that your offense isn’t working.” With so much uncertainty facing potato growers in the near future, that oh-so-true pearl of wisdom sure is reassuring.