R&E in Twin Falls and Kimberly

A continuing UI Potato Research Series

Published in the July 2012 Issue Published online: Jul 12, 2012 University of Idaho Potato Team
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"Storage Research. University of Idaho Potato Storage Research facility located in Kimberly, Idaho. Courtesy photo.
"Fry Color. Qualitative fry color evaluations collected utilizing a reflectometer. Courtesy photo.
"Inside Kimberly. Inside the Kimberly Potato Storage Research Facility. Courtesy photo.
"Environmentally Controlled. Replicated storage trials take place inside an environmentally controlled bin. Some trials, such as silver scurf studies, require their own air system to avoid cross contamination with the rest of the potatoes in storage. Courtesy photo..
"Sprout Inhibitors. A replicated trial at the Kimberly research center utilizing 500-pound capacity individual boxes, used to evaluate the efficacy of applied sprout inhibitors. Courtesy photo.

Potato research and extension programs at University of Idaho Twin Falls and Kimberly Research and Extension Centers extend over many disciplines that include entomology by Dr. Erik Wenninger, soil science and fertility by Dr. Amber Moore and anything and everything there is to do with potato production, storage and quality by Dr. Nora Olsen.

These three scientists are part of an overall dedicated potato team with statewide effort to develop various potato-based research projects and information delivery systems. This article will highlight Nora Olsen's research and extension programs.


An Exceptional Team

Nora, surrounded by an exceptional current team of support scientists, Lynn Woodell, Mary Jo Frazier and Tina Brandt, focus efforts on: 1) potato storage management, 2) potato production, and 3) food and farm safety. Deterioration of tuber quality and associated economic losses can be substantial if proper storage practices are not used.

There are four major components to our potato storage management program: disease control, sprout control, new variety-specific management and overall quality maintenance.

A substantial portion of the research and extension efforts are directed toward production issues. Topics in this program area include impact of vine kill, manure and hail on yield and quality, zebra chip development in field and storage, organic potato production, influence of seed physiological age on performance, use of serological disease test kits to diagnose diseases, effect of virus infection on tuber quality and questions on overall production management.

The third component on food and farm safety has been directed at education programs on the importance of minimizing foreign material in raw potato product and developing potato GAP Audit organizational materials. The latter is part of an overall GAP educational program that includes website information and workshops. The University of Idaho GAP website was accessed over 4,400 times in 2011.

The majority of the research projects are conducted at the Kimberly Potato Storage Research Facility and R & E Center. The 6,800-square-foot facility is equipped with nine computerized storage bins, each capable of storing 200,000 lbs of potatoes. The research bins are patterned after commercial storages and have independently controlled environments.

This unique facility allows for the manipulation of several storage parameters for each bin, such as humidity and temperature, enabling various treatments for each project. This state-of-the-art potato storage facility allows research conditions to simulate commercial storage conditions. Additional research and demonstration work are conducted in field trials at the R & E center and grower cooperator fields and storages.

Nora's program relies heavily on The Kimberly Potato Storage Advisory Committee in establishing research and extension direction and priorities. This committee has about 40 members from the Idaho potato industry, potato growers and UI faculty. This committee is invaluable in documenting the needs of the industry, recommending research delivery mechanisms and providing feedback on clientele impact and adaptation of research and extension practices. Their support and dedication to the program is greatly appreciated.

Funds to support these research and extension programs come primarily from the Idaho Potato Commission, USDA/ARS and in-kind gift grants from industry partners. In 2011, we received funds from a joint effort between the Idaho, Washington and Oregon Potato Commissions. Below are highlights of currently funded IPC projects. The Kimberly and Twin Falls' potato programs value the support of the Idaho Potato Commission and strive to address the immediate and future needs of the industry.


Methods of Sprout Suppression

A major component of potato quality in storage is effective sprout inhibition. If proper sprout control is not maintained, tuber quality suffers and year-round storability is diminished. The primary method to control sprouting in storage is with application of chlorpropham (CIPC). Due to critical examination of carbamates in agricultural uses, a major emphasis of our program is evaluating alternative sprout inhibitors and methods to reduce the rate or increase efficiency of CIPC. "Sprout control programs" have been developed by combining CIPC with carriers or with the addition of other sprout control products.

Multiple studies have looked at essential oils, such as mint and clove, hydrogen peroxide, irradiation, maleic hydrazide, substituted naphthalenes and unsaturated ketones as potential sprout suppression methods. This project has provided information on the feasibility of using alternative and novel products, application technology, cultivar response and storage conditions. The outcome of this project has considerable potential impact especially if allowable CIPC residue levels continue to decline as seen in the European Union.

Many of the alternative compounds evaluated also are appropriate for organic potato storage uses. Therefore, we continue to provide recommendations for organic sprout suppression in storage utilizing variety selection, storage temperatures and applications of essential oils, such as clove oil.

Potato growers in Idaho and nationwide rely upon storage to maintain quality for year-round supply of potatoes. Growers battle multiple potential causes of quality degradation in storage, and one of the major causes of deterioration is due to disease decay. The research and extension program is directed at providing the potato industry with solutions or management recommendations to minimize storage losses due to disease.

With support from the IPC, USDA/ARS and the industry, they have investigated the efficacy and application methodology of various disinfestants, biocontrol agents and fungicides applied to potatoes entering storage or applied through the ventilation system. Studies have evaluated product efficacy against storage pathogens such as late blight, pink rot, silver scurf, early blight, black dot and Fusarium dry rot. Dry rot is currently being investigated in a project entitled "Investigate best field and storage management for Fusarium dry rot control balanced with other disease and quality attributes." This project looks at two varieties and the impact of vine kill, pulp temperatures, holding temperatures and product applications on the control of Fusarium dry rot in storage.