KENNEWICK, Wash. — Washington's potato industry has raised $2 million toward creating an endowed professorship at Washington State University to study soil management.
An additional $1 million is needed, said Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington Potato Commission, likening the project to "solving a riddle."
The commission and potato processors are contributing to the position, which will study soil management in potato cropping systems.
"As growers or field men, you know there are fields that might not be that far apart — one field might yield 30 ton and the field just across the road might yield 35 ton," he said. "Chemically, they're about the same field. You manage them for the same nutrition and water needs for the crop, but yet, one yields different than the other. Why is that?"
Farmers believe it comes down to the biology of the soil in those two fields, Voigt said.
"There are millions of organisms interacting with each other that we don't really know much about," he said. "Soil health and understanding what's happening below ground is the next frontier for agriculture."
Voigt hopes to raise the rest of the money by the end of 2019.
He spoke about the efforts during an update at the Washington-Oregon Potato Conference in Kennewick, Wash.