Commissions join forces on research efforts
Funding for projects will be announced in February
By JOHN O'CONNELL
Leaders of the Idaho, Washington and Oregon potato commissions have begun a new team approach to prioritizing spud research, which they believe will facilitate scientific collaboration and help them avoid duplicative projects.
In late November, officials with the three commissions met with researchers from state universities, the USDA's Agricultural Research Service and private research organizations, as well as representatives from major processors in Pasco, Wash., for the first in a series of meetings.
Funding for specific projects should be announced by late February, said Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO Frank Muir.
The commissions selected entomologist Andy Jensen as tri-state research director to spearhead the effort. Though the states have partnered on research in the past, Muir believes more teamwork will take place because of cooperative planning. Idaho alone receives about 30 requests for research funding per year, Muir said.
"In the past it became clear a lot of the states do the same research. The benefits (of research) could be helpful to all three groups of growers," Muir said. "It also benefits all researchers to publish and expand their information beyond their own states."
Bill Brewer, executive director of the Oregon Potato Commission, said members of the commissions' research committees have been meeting for a few years to lay the groundwork for the effort.
"It was well attended. That proved to us as commissions that this is a viable project. It's something we needed to do," Brewer said.
Brewer said top priorities among his growers include keeping research positions filled and supporting breeding efforts to develop spud varieties that use less inputs and resist diseases.
Aberdeen, Idaho, grower Ritchey Toevs, a member of the IPC's Research and Education Committee, said researchers in Pasco offered 10-minute presentations on their proposals over the course of a day and a half.
Toevs said zebra chip, a new potato disease to the Pacific Northwest, was the most popular subject of proposals and presents a great opportunity for collaboration.
"I'm sure all of the researchers left with at least new contacts ... and more than likely it focused their research," Toevs said.