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  Homepage / Editor's Blogs / 2007 World Potato Conference  
2007 World Potato Congress Blog

Spudman's team – Kimberly Warren, Scott Christie and Brenda Bradford – were in Boise in August for the World Potato Congress.

August 22 - The World Potato Congress is now under way!
August 23 - WPC, Take Two.
August 24 - Farm Show, Day One.
August 25 - WPC Farm Show, Day 2.
August 26 - The Home Stretch.
August 28 - It's Good To Be Home.

Photo Gallery

Aug. 22 - The World Potato Congress is now under way!

Welcome to the first Spudman World Potato Congress blog entry. The congress started out with a bang this morning here in Boise, Idaho.

A barbecue at a park near downtown kicked off the events on Monday evening. There was great food and Western music, and the weather couldn't have been better.

This morning, the educational seminars started after an opening ceremony. Members of the Shoshone Bannock tribe and the Spring Creek Singers welcomed us with song and dance, and for anyone not yet awake, the Boise State University marching band made an appearance. Spuddy Buddy, the Idaho Potato Commission mascot, was also there.

The seminars explored the potato industry in developing countries, with speakers including Jim Godfrey and Pamela Anderson from the International Potato Center (CIP). They presented the mission of CIP and highlighted some of the trends in the industry and ways the CIP had worked to advance potatoes as a way of alleviating poverty in developing countries.

C.L. "Butch" Otter, the congressman from Idaho, spoke to the congress about developing international markets. He challenged the congress to not compete with other growers, but see other starches as competition. In other parts of the world, rice and noodles compete for space on the plate with potatoes.

Mike Johanns, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, spoke during a lunch session about the international trade of potatoes and the need for changes to the 2007 Farm Bill. He also announced an additional $13 million to fight the spread of potato cyst nematode in Idaho. That brings the total amount to about $15 million, all of which is immediately available. The money will be used for survey equipment and costs from tracking the pest in Idaho.

Check out our Web site for more updates from the World Potato Congress.

- Scott Christie

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Aug. 23
– WPC, Take Two.

After recovering from Tuesday’s early morning flight and a two-hour time difference, I was up and ready to go early this morning. Boise – for those of you who haven’t ever been here – is a really neat town. There are some cute shops and restaurants all over downtown. In fact, the woman at our hotel’s front desk told me that there are 70 restaurants within walking distance of our hotel!

It was a good day at the World Potato Congress. I attended the Science Track this morning. The room was pretty full – a couple hundred people, at least. I sat next to someone from Egypt for the first half of the morning and talked to several people from all over the world – this truly is a global event. The Science Track was quite interesting – it’s always fun to hear what researchers are working on, and this session brought researchers to the podium from both Europe and the United States.

First up was Jürgen Kroschel from the International Potato Center (CIP). He spoke about potato tuber moth (PTM) – an important pest of potato in many parts of the world. There are 90 countries in the world with PTM occurrences, Kroschel said. CIP sees concerns with highly toxic pesticides contributing to the costs of potato production – as well as the dangers they possibly could have for people’s health in some areas of the world, Kroschel said. CIP is anticipating, however, the adoption of IPM technologies on a global basis. Kroschel had a lot of information and slides discussing PTM and the cases of infestation, which expanded even more on Monday’s half-day session on PTM.

Next up to the podium was North Dakota’s Gary Secor. His talk was on emerging potato diseases. With 60 major diseases of potato worldwide and numerous other minor or as-yet unknown diseases, emerging potato diseases are something all growers – and industry members – should have on their list of concerns. There are three different kinds of emerging diseases: new diseases, changing diseases and moving diseases. All three pose possible threats to potato crops. New diseases include new virus strains and phytoplasms; changing diseases are those that are developing fungicide resistance – among those, Secor listed late blight, bacterial wilt and fusarium graminearum; moving diseases include those that are moving into new regions, such as wilt, smut and potato cyst nematode. Learn more about Secor’s talk in a future issue of Spudman.

Dr. Roland Sigvald, from Sweden, presented a discussion on virus vector management in seed potato production. His discussion focused primarily on aphids and the role they play in the transmission of potato viruses – as well as the direct damage they cause to potatoes.

The morning coffee break was a time to reconnect with old potato-industry sources, leaders and friends. And they all were out in force this morning. It was especially nice to catch up with people I’ve featured in past stories, though never met face-to-face. Since Spudman’s a national publication and we’re based in Sparta, Mich., I do some of my interviews over the phone. There’s nothing quite like shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye while they talk about their farm and their family.

The mid-morning sessions in the Science Track were focused around disease forecasting models. William Fry from Cornell University in the United States, and Jan Hadders from Dacom Plant Service in The Netherlands each talked about different forecasting models and their applications for potato growers. The goals for these forecasts, according to Fry, are to suppress diseases more effectively and efficiently – with the emphasis on efficiently. While disease-forecasting models prove to be a helpful tool for growers, they are not the be-all, end-all. Forecasting tools can help growers make informed decisions for spray applications depending on regional disease outbreaks and weather forecasts. “Models are guides for your decisions,” Fry said – with emphasis placed on guides and your. Jan Hadders reminded growers that decision support systems “have to rely on the weather forecast – sometimes it is right, sometimes it is wrong, but it is all we have to look at the future.”

Lunch was held outside in the beautiful but warm Idaho sun. The lunch was – of course – delicious Idaho baked potatoes and quite a few other supporting dishes. Luckily I was able to snag a place at one of the tables in the shade to listen to Congressman John Salazar speak. Salazar is one of only four active farmers in the House of Representatives – four members represents less than 1 percent of the House. With 2 percent of the U.S. population making its living from farming, Salazar pointed out that farmers and ranchers are highly under-represented in the House of Representatives. Salazar discussed the 2007 Farm Bill, which he said probably will not be as “generous” as the 2002 Farm Bill because “in Washington, we’re facing a terrible budget deficit.” Salazar also told attendees about the importance of alternative forms of energy. “Within agriculture lies the key to food security and energy security,” Salazar said.

After my belly was full and my head was swimming with information from the morning’s sessions, Scott Christie and I headed out to Wilder to set up our booth for the WPC Farm Show. The 45-minute drive was fairly uneventful – we didn’t get lost once, even though we had to make a couple of quick, last-minute turns. The site of the farm show is huge – with potatoes growing all around and people all over. Inside the temporary building for the “indoor” booths, people were milling about and hurrying to get their booths set up. Scott and I checked in and found the Spudman booth – 1109 for anyone interested in stopping by to say “hi” – and started setting up. The only thing missing was the main part of our booth – the actual display that hadn’t quite made it to the site. We set up everything else: the table, subscription forms, magazines and our Spudman banner. We had everything just about right – as did the people next to us – when the wind came up and started blowing booths down and covering everything in a fine layer of sand, including us. The farm show planners soon put a stop – well, a slow-down – to the sand blasting by closing the door on the end of the tent. After waiting for a few hours for the booth we needed to complete our set-up (which never showed up), Scott and I decided it was time to head back to Boise for the WPC Awards Ceremony. Leaving our booth almost finished, with hopes of putting the finishing touches on early tomorrow morning, Scott and I loaded our sand-covered selves into the car. Back in Boise, there was just enough time to wash off the sand we brought back with us and head across the street for the awards ceremony.

I was excited to go to the ceremony and mix and mingle, but I also was looking forward to seeing the awards handed out. You see, I was a member of the WPC Awards Committee, and it was nice to finally put faces with names and accomplishments. The entertainment – a hoppin’ band called Highstreet – started the evening with a musical bang. People were dancing in their chairs as the band played swing music. Dinner was delicious – steak and fish and, of course, mashed potatoes. Dessert – my favorite – was ice cream shaped as, what else, a baked potato. Fun and functional food! Award winners were Jim Godfrey, from the United Kingdom; David Montgomery, from Australia; Dr. Dongyu QU, from China; and the U.S.’s own Ronald D. Offutt. The party continued after the awards were handed out, but, alas, it’s an early morning tomorrow for me as the Spudman team heads back out to the farm show to finish setting up our booth and start our first day of the WPC Farm Show. For those of you reading this from Boise – or nearby – and attending the WPC, be sure to visit Spudman at booth 1109 at the farm show.

And don’t forget to keep checking back for updates about the farm show and our thoughts on the World Potato Congress.

- Kimberly Warren

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Aug. 24
- Farm Show, Day One.

Well, our exhibition booth finally arrived (about 15 minutes after we gave up and left last night). We had a 9:45 a.m. meeting scheduled, so Kim, Brenda and I had to be at the Farm Show early enought to set up our booth and make the meeting. I think we all felt a little disorganized and rushed, but we got it done.

The Farm Show started off pretty slow. It officially opened at 10 a.m., but the first bus didn't leave from the Congress in Boise until 12:45 p.m. We did get to meet some of the other exhibitors while we waited, and Kim and I took turns at the booth while the other walked around.

I went to the 3 p.m. harvesting demonstration to get photos for the magazine. One thing we struggle with at Spudman is having good photographs of the harvest. Timing and light usually aren't good for morning and evening harvests, so having a demonstration in the middle of the day is a nice change.

I have met many people in the industry this week, some of whom I've talked to on the phone but never met in person and some who were new to me. Today, I met David Fraser with the U.S. Potato Board, Norah Olsen from the University of Idaho, and Don and Ben Sklarczyk, seed growers from Michigan. I met many more that I couldn't possibly list.

I do want to give a special hello to the group of New Zealanders at the Congress and Farm Show. I met most of them Monday night, and have enjoyed runnig into them throughout the week. They're off to Idaho Falls, then Salt Lake City, then Las Vegas and then back to California before they return home.

We'll be back at the Farm Show tomorrow, so check back for news on what we're up to. If you're there, stop by and let us know what you think of the blog and register for a chance to win a $100 Cabela's gift card.

- Scott Christie

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Aug. 25 – WPC Farm Show, Day 2.

Scott, Brenda and I arrived at the farm show early this morning for a breakfast meeting with one of the chemical companies. What a gorgeous morning – it was cool with a nice breeze blowing. Some were cold, but for me it was just right.

Traffic was a little slow through our booth this morning, but I got to talk to a bunch of people face-to-face who I usually only get to talk to on the phone: Bill Bohl, Mike Thornton and Frank Muir, to name a few. It always makes a show fun to meet people I work with on a regular basis.

The highlight of my morning – and Scott’s, too, I’m sure – was having a picture taken with Healthy Mr. Potato Head. He was out and about meetin’ and greetin’ like the rest of us at the trade show. (Check back next week to see the Spudman editorial team with the spud man.)

Traffic started to pick up mid-afternoon – there were a lot of families walking around collecting goodies and information. You can tell when someone’s serious about a trade show when they have a full bag (or two) of paraphernalia from various companies.

Scott visited one of the trial plots and took some photos of Colorado potato beetle – something we don’t often get the chance to visit with up close and personal. For not having a telephoto lens on the camera, his shots turned out pretty well.

This afternoon Spudman joined the DuPont team for a special panel discussion with Jeff Miller and Dennis Johnson at the DuPont booth. We talked about a lot of issues facing potato growers – including resistance management, research updates and advice for growers. We did a quick plot tour at DuPont's demonstration field and then headed to the USPB/NPC dinner.

What a fun evening! There was a good-sized group of people enjoying good food and each other's company. Scott and I met several of Randy Hardy's children – and some of his many grandkids. What a wonderful family! I especially enjoyed playing in the dirt and chatting with the young ones. I recognized so much of my family in them.

We also enjoyed visiting with some of Michigan's potato people during dinner. It was like a small bit of home in Idaho.

Tomorrow we'll head back to Wilder one more time for the last day of the farm show. If you haven't had a chance to stop by our booth yet, come say "hi." We're booth 1109.

And please remember to send me your thoughts and comments on the blog and the WPC. You can e-mail them to editor@spudman.com.

- Kimberly Warren

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Aug. 26
- The Home Stretch.

It's been a long week, and although I've had a lot of fun, I'm ready to head home. With a little luck I'll be home by tomorrow evening.

The Farm Show wrapped up early today. There weren't many growers, so some exhibitors started packing up early and by 1 p.m. everyone was tearing down their booths. It was a great day to get free products from exhibitors and cheap Farm Show gear though. I picked up a hat, three shirts and a Darth Tater Potato Head for a great price from the souvenir stand. And I collected a Spuddy Buddy, a Healthy Mr. Potato Head, an Idaho potato pin and other free souvenirs from other booths.

Overall, I would say it was a successful Farm Show. I know I learned a lot and had a chance to get good photos of harvesting and some close-ups of beetles eating plants. It was also a chance to meet advertisers and find out what is new on the technology side of the industry. I'm not sure what the final attendance was, but there wasn't a clear feel for how many would be there from the beginning. Before the show, estimates as high as 30,000 were floating around (which is more than 30 times the number at the Congress), and the Idaho Statesman today said 5,000 were expected. International turnout was good, but it didn't seem like many U.S. growers made it out. It's obviously a very busy time, and I'm sure more would have come if the show had not fallen during harvest.

Look for a wrap-up of the Congress and Farm Show in the next issue of Spudman, and let us know your thoughts on the blog by e-mailing Kim at editor@spudman.com or me at news@spudman.com.

- Scott Christie

Attendees Weigh In on WPC

Gaining Knowledge at the Congress

I didn't know what to expect prior to the World Potato Congress and Farm Show. It was great. The chance to talk "potatoes" with people from around the world was a wonderful experience. I was amazed how many of the same problems and concerns we share. From the show I made many contacts that will help me in my personal business as well as ideas that will assist the U.S. potato industry in the future.

One issue that we are facing in the United States is the need for grower application data of applied crop protection products. Without that data, EPA is forced to use default assumptions of maximum application and maximum rates. I found out the same is true in the United Kingdom as well as other countries. An organization like the National Potato Council in the U.K. has grower application information that helps solve that problem for the industry.

Many other conversations took place with growers from around the world. The old saying, "knowledge is power" is so true. The connection with leading growers from other lands will help provide a lot of knowledge.

Donald Sklarczyk
Sklarczyk Seed Farm LLC
Johannesburg, Mich.

Thanks From the Michigan Potato Industry

It was great to see you all at the World Potato Congress and Farm Show. I would like to extend my appreciation to all who had a hand in preparing and working on the North Central Breeding Team booth. I feel the display of varieties hit the target audience of those wanting to know more about a public potato breeding program.

Thanks to Duane Maatz and Ted Kreis (a special thanks to Ted who took the lead on the project) of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association; Dr. Christian Thill, University of Minnesota; Dr. Susie Thompson, North Dakota State University; Dr. Dave Douches and Chris Long, Michigan State University; Mike Carter, Wisconsin Potato Vegetable Growers Association; Bryan Bowen and Dr. Jiwan Palta, University of Wisconsin; and Don and Ben Sklarczyk, Sklarczyk Seed Farm LLC in Michigan.

It will take time to digest the entire week, however my early reaction is that potato growers across the globe are being well served by the vast infrastructure of people dedicated to research, education and marketing of growers’ products.

Thanks to Spudman for carrying the message of the industry.

Ben Kudwa
Executive Director
Michigan Potato Industry Commission

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Aug. 28
– It's Good To Be Home.

It’s good to be back in the office after a long week at the World Potato Congress. I wasn’t scheduled to get home until after 7 p.m. Sunday, but lucky for me, I caught an early flight back to Grand Rapids and was home by 5! It was nice not to have to spend five extra hours in the Minneapolis airport. Even with the extra couple of hours at home, I was too tired to unpack. And it surely wasn’t easy waking up at 5:30 this morning to be to work by 7 – my body was still telling me I was in Idaho, even though my brain knew better.

I always enjoy coming back from shows because I feel even closer to the industry and have a renewed excitement for it. Scott and I both came back loaded with ideas and materials – as was evidenced by my bulging luggage on Sunday’s flight home. You can look for a full post-show report in upcoming issues of Spudman and at www.spudman.com.

We’re excited about this blog and hope to include comments from anyone who attended the show – or anyone who followed the show through our entries here. Please send me any thoughts or feedback, and I’ll include them in subsequent postings. My e-mail address is editor@spudman.com.

- Kimberly Warren

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Photo Gallery:

The U.S. Potato Board sponsored a barbecue on Friday for its members and guests.

The farm show had trade exhibitors in addition to field demonstrations.

The harvest demonstration at the farm show featured a Spudnik harvester digging four rows and windrowing two rows.

Visitors at the farm show could ride on a harvester as it dug rows.

Potato growers check out new varieties growing at the farm show in Wilder, Idaho.

Susie Thompson, potato breeder at North Dakota State University, shows off some new varieties at the farm show test plots.

The DuPont display had the most popular attraction at the farm show in Wilder, Idaho, the number 24 car of NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

Mike Johanns, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, spoke during a lunch session on Tuesday, Aug. 22, followed by a press conference where he announced an additional $13 million to fight the spread of potato cyst nematode in Idaho.

C.L. "Butch" Otter, Idaho Congressman, spoke to the congress about the role of government in developing international markets.

Members of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe and the Spring Creek Singers started the educational sessions with a blessing and dance on Tuesday, Aug. 22.

Frank Muir of the Idaho Potato Commission welcomed the international audience with a little help from Spuddy Buddy.

The Sixth World Potato Congress kicked off Monday, Aug. 21, with a dinner at Municipal Park in Boise, Idaho.

Scott Christie and Kimberly Warren visit with Healthy Mr. Potato Head at the U.S. Potato Board's booth.

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