The Washington-Oregon Potato Conference is back and in person.
The conference will be Jan. 25-27 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Wash.
Last year, the conference was held virtually.
"I think everybody's really hungry to see one another," said Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington Potato Commission. "One of the critical things about potato conference is not only just the sharing of information about what's going on in the industry and the latest research ... it's about learning from your neighbors."
The conference will follow Washington's COVID-19 requirements. Masking is required when not eating or drinking, and sanitation stations will be on hand. Masks and hand sanitizer will be available.
The conference is typically attended by 2,000 people. Voigt isn't certain whether COVID-19 will affect attendance.
Items on the agenda include:
• "We came off kind of a weird, freakish year with the high heat that we had in June," Voigt said. Several researchers will discuss extreme heat management options.
Gary Roth, executive director of the Oregon Potato Commission, said he expected weather to be top-of-mind for growers.
• A three-year integrated pest management experiment from Washington State University Extension educator Tim Waters and Alan Schreiber, of the Agriculture Development Group in Eltopia, Wash., on maintaining high yields and quality using fewer inputs.
"You're going to have scouts in your field a lot more often, but I think growers will be really intrigued," Voigt said. "Scouting costs more money, but I think the research is really starting to show that you actually can reduce your pesticide use."
• Control of the weed nutsedge, which is becoming more of a problem.
"It's kind of like a grass, but a lot more like a spear," Voigt said. "It can actually grow through a potato, and you can actually have quality issues with the tubers that are growing underground, as this nutsedge can literally grow through it."
• Keynote speaker R.J. Harvey, the executive chef at Potatoes USA, the national potato marketing and research group, will offer a cooking demonstration.
• University of Wisconsin entomology professor Russ Groves will discuss potato pest management using RNA interference.
A product is sprayed onto a potato crop and as the insect pest picks up the RNA and dies because it will no longer make a protein it needs to survive, Voigt said as an example.
"This is sort of a whole new class of pesticides, essentially, that actually have no pesticides in them, no chemicals," Voigt said. "It's really kind of a new frontier for pest management in agriculture."
• Washington State Agriculture Director Derek Sandison will talk about opportunities and challenges for the state's agriculture, and water.
• North Dakota State University potato pathologist Gary Secor will discuss potato dry rot and bacterial rots.
"The conference never fails to provide an excellent agenda," Roth said. "I expect as good a representation from Oregon as we have seen in the past, subject to whatever COVID may or may not throw at us."
"Really, it's all about knowledge," Voigt said. "Potato conference really is, first and foremost, about how we can get better, every day, every year. I think that's why our conference is so heavily attended — because people really rely on the information that's shared there, both from the presenters and then from their neighbors."