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Scholarships fund potential potato futures

“I think your really have to be open, observant and excited about what you’re doing.”

Those words of advice for Syngenta scholarship applicants come from Ken Cleveland, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student majoring in plant pathology and the recipient of the 2010-2011 Syngenta scholarship.

The cost of everything keeps rising but it seems that the cost of a college education defies the cost of living index and seems to grow exponentially. In an effort to help Syngenta and the National Potato Council offer scholarships to students with interests in agriculture and the potato industry.

We interrupted Cleveland during finals week at Madison to talk about how he benefitted from the scholarship program and his advice to applicants.
Last summer Cleveland worked as a student/lab technician with Amanda Gevens at the Hancock Agricultural Research Station. His winning essay dealt with his work at Hancock on the evaluation of potato fungicides and potato varieties with optimum characteristics for early blight disease control.

“We’re doing it for efficacy for the growers of Wisconsin and for industry so we can all work together, so we can make our agricultural system as efficient as possible for everyone,” he said of his work a the research station.

Gevens told him about the scholarship while working at the research station last summer.

Basing his essay on his experiences at the research station Cleveland said that he discovered that the most important thing is to be really involved and aware of the work you’re involved in.

“I wasn’t just out in the fields going through the motions. I took the time to look at what’s really going on and I kind of put that in the essay,” he said.

After completing his essay he had some friends and Gevens critique his effort and then he went back and re-wrote the essay before submitting it.
This is the second year that Syngenta has offered a $5,000 scholarship to undergraduates involved in the potato-growing industry or a member of 4-H or the Future Farmers of America. Application deadline is August 31. For more information on the Syngenta scholarship go to
The National Potato Council offers a $5,000 scholarship to a graduate student pursuing advanced studies in agribusiness, which enhances the potato industry. Application deadline is June 15. For more information, visit

Potato stocks down 27 percent

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that the 13 major potato states held 65.7 million cwt. in storage on May 1, down 27 percent from last year’s total of 89.6 million cwt. This represents the lowest level of stocks since 1991.
Washington state stocks were down 54 percent from last year with 10.3 million cwt. in storage. Idaho has 30 million cwt. in storage, down 22 percent from a year ago.
According to the NASS report, processors in the nine major potato states have used 144 million cwt. this season, up 1 percent from the same period last year. Dehydrating usage accounted for 22.7 million cwt of total processing, down 15 percent from last year.
Bruce Huffaker's North American Potato Market News reports that Canadian growers are expected to plant 4,800 more acres in 2011 than in 2010. This represents the first increase in potato acreage in Canada since 2003.
As of March 31, processors held 1.09 billion pounds of frozen potato products, a 36.6 day inventory, the second lowest inventory, relative to usage, on record for March 31, according to Huffaker's report.
Huffaker estimates that process potato stocks are extremely tight and that processors will have to scale back production due to supply shortages in the coming months.
Planting is behind schedule in the Canadian prairies, Ontario and and British Columbia. Adverse weather conditions in the United States, heavy rains and flooding have caused problems for farmers in throughout the Midwest. Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan are all behind in their planting schedules.
December freezes impacted Florida's first crops but growing conditions have been ideal since January and April fresh shipments were a record 1.12 million cwt. California's desert potato crop was hit by a series of freezes resulting in a drop of 65.6 percent in fresh shipments.
The weather has not favored the Washington growers as well. Below freezing temperatures continue to persist as recently as May 1. Expectations to begin harvest in the first week of July to meet the projected process shortages may have to be readjusted.

  AmaRosa, left and Sage Russet, right.

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Oregon State University introduces new varieties

Two new potato varieties just released by Oregon State University are likely to catch the eye of Oregon's potato processing industry and the gourmet market.
A red fingerling called AmaRosa is likely to be popular with the upscale potato specialty market, said Solomon Yilma of the OSU breeding program. A small fingerling potato with smooth, deep-red skin, AmaRosa has red flesh also and when sliced looks like pepperoni. The tasty tubers retain their color even as they are baked, fried or cooked in the microwave."

"AmaRosa tubers are also loaded with high level of antioxidants," Yilma said.
The fingerling potatoes are smaller than others and pack easily. They also are resistant to scab, a harmless but unsightly bump on the skin that can make them less marketable.
"In fact, AmaRosa could become popular with organic growers because it resists both scab and tuber late blight," Yilma said.
The other potato variety, the light-brown Sage Russet, can help supply the needs of the Oregon market for processed potatoes.
The flattened, long shape of Sage Russet makes it the right size to slice and freeze as French fries for commercial and home use. Seventy-five percent of Oregon potatoes are made into food products such as frozen shoestring fries for fast food restaurants, hash browns and chips, and nearly 25 percent of all French fries exported from the United States come from Oregon, according to the Oregon Potato Commission.
"Visual defects can be a problem for the consumer, but Sage Russet has minimal internal flaws," Yilma said. "Its eyes are evenly distributed and lack distinctive 'eyebrows' - tiny scars left by leaves."

When dropped into hot oil, the fries keep their light color because of their low sugar levels.
Sage Russet also is suitable to sell fresh, and as it was evaluated during breeding trials, it earned high scores in yields, high protein content and vitamin C.

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