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Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor
John Toaspern
John Toaspern

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USPB annual meeting highlights

The United States Potato Board held its annual meeting in March at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In separate video interviews, Tim O'Connor, president and CEO of the USPB, and John Toaspern, USPB vice president of international marketing, discussed results from 2011 and plans for the coming year.

O'Connor spoke about future strategies for improving consumer attitudes while increasing domestic consumption and expansion of the export market. Discussing ongoing marketing designs, O'Connor said the USPB needs to continue to appeal to "Linda." The prototypical grocery shopper, "Linda is a target of opportunity for the industry," O'Connor said. USPB research has identified Linda as an informed shopper who not only devotes more time to shopping at the grocery store, but also spends more money when purchasing groceries. Linda represents a category of shopper that feeds one-third of the population in the U.S.

O'Connor wants to see shippers and retailers use this consumer data to enhance the potato shopping experience of their target audience. That would include secondary displays that pair potatoes with entrees to assist shoppers with incorporating potatoes into their meal plans. "Together we can do a better job of selling potatoes," said O'Connor, noting that such an approach "grows both of our businesses by taking this consumer information that we have available and changing the way we do business."

Toaspern said that all categories in international marketing have continued to trend upward. Total exports were up 34 percent during the five-year long-range plan that ended in 2011 and have continued to increase during the current marketing year.

Toaspern expressed apprehension over existing tight supplies and high prices in the U.S. and questioned how U.S. stock will fare in the face of lower prices and excess supply in Europe, China and other producers.

View the video interviews here.

Warm winter could mean more volunteers

Mild winter temperatures and increasing warm spring temperatures could result in more potato volunteers in fields this year, according to two recent reports.

Rick Boydston and Marc Seymour, of the USDA-ARS Prosser Research Station, recorded winter soil temperatures at four depths at the USDA-ARS Paterson research site from mid-November 2011 through February 2012. They report that soil never got cold enough to kill potato tubers.

Their data show that the lowest air temperatures recorded occurred on Dec. 23, 2011, and Jan. 12, 2012, reaching 16º F and 11º F, respectively. Soil temperatures attained a low of 29º F at a depth of 2-3/4 inches on Jan. 13. Temperatures at all lower depths remained above 31º F. Normally, potato tubers are killed when temperatures are at or below 28º F. According to the researchers, only tubers left on the soil surface to a depth of 1 inch were exposed to killing temperatures. Based on previous studies, Boydston and Seymour estimate that 67 percent of tubers left in the field last fall in the Columbia Basin have survived killing temperatures.

For more information, visit the Prosser USDA-ARS website at

Along the same lines, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension News has produced a new website for estimating potential survival of potato volunteers in Michigan. It was developed by Willie Kirk and Lee Dunslayger; MSU Extension, Department of Plant Pathology; Phil Wharton, University of Idaho; Kathleen Baker, Western Michigan University; and Beth Bishop, MSU Enviro-weather.

According to the website, all regions, except Stephenson and Hastings, Mich., experienced soil thermal conditions this past winter that place them in the high-risk category for volunteer survival. Stephenson is at low risk and Hastings is at moderate risk.

For more information, visit their website.


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Dow introduces Blackhawk insecticide

Dow AgroSciences has rolled out Blackhawk, a new insecticide designed to provide consistent control of many foliage-feeding insects in a variety of crops, including potatoes.

According to the company, Blackhawk provides fast, effective control of many damaging insects, including Colorado potato beetles, worms and thrips. Blackhawk contains the active ingredient spinosad, a Group 5 insecticide.

"It will not cause secondary pest outbreaks, such as mites or aphids," said Andy Fordice, Dow AgroSciences insecticide product manager. "It keeps populations of beneficial insects without harming them."

The maximum number of applications is four per crop year, with no more than two consecutive applications. A lignin-based formulation allows Blackhawk to bind to the potato foliage for a longer period of time, Fordice added.

Blackhawk is registered under the EPA's Reduced Risk Pesticide Initiative and can be applied by ground, air or chemigation. It has a four-hour re-entry interval and a seven-day pre-harvest interval.

Blackhawk has shown no phytotoxicity to crops, the company reports.

Visit for more information.

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