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Wireworm feeding damage is easy to spot, says Rich Novy, an Agricultural Research Service plant geneticist seeking to shore up America's...
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When Idaho farmers started making the state famous for its potatoes, they seeded their crops in ridged rows and watered the plants by channeling...
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Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers
Irrigation Association
Frank Muir

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Idaho Potato Commission to celebrate
75 years

Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC), released plans Sept. 1 for celebrating the commission’s 75-year anniversary in 2012 during the annual meeting of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association meeting in Sun Valley.

Muir announced that the association had just finished shooting a new commercial with Denise Austin and that the IPC had secured a heart-healthy certification for Idaho potatoes from the American Heart Association.

Along with continuing its sponsorship of Boise State and University of Idaho college football, IPC also will be sponsoring a bowl game, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, previously known as the Humanitarian Bowl. It will be played on Dec. 17 at Bronco Stadium on the Boise State University campus. The game will feature teams from the Western Athletic Conference and the Mid-America Conference.

As part of the commission’s diamond anniversary, plans are under way to construct a giant “Idaho” potato to travel around the nation.

IPC also is donating $100,000 to Meals on Wheels and is partnering with the program to raise awareness and funds to help feed the indigent and the elderly in conjunction with the tour of the giant potato.

During the presentation, Muir said that the commission is considering enlarging the “Grown in Idaho” seal on retail bags and possibly changing the color of the seal.

“We’re looking at a 50 percent increase of the current minimum size,” Muir said.

Muir said that a statistical survey of more than 6,000 people indicated that given a choice between a bag of potatoes with the “Grown in Idaho” seal or one without the seal, 9 out of 10 would choose the bag with the Idaho seal.

“What consumers are telling us, they prefer gold and blue, and why that makes sense. Blue ties into blue ribbon produce – everyone that’s been to a state fair knows that blue ribbon is the best and gold, gold medal. So the blue and gold together just connotes royalty, the best, and so we’re going to be exploring that with our industry to see if they’re supportive of changing to a universal seal with universal colors,” he said.

Muir was non-committal about the survey’s results, saying that IPC members would have to make the final decision.

“We don’t have the answer as to whether or not that’s the direction we’re going, but that’s certainly what the consumer is asking us to do,” Muir said.

Muir said that in the eight years he’s been with the IPC, the association has engaged in major consumer studies four or five times.

Key Bank
Zebra Chip image
Late blight found in northern Utah; zebra chip discovered in lower Columbia Basin

The big news coming from the Columbia Basin is the discovery of zebra chip in the southern area of the basin.

According to a press release issued by Silvia Rondon, Extension entomologist specialist, and Phil Hamm, plant pathologist at Oregon State University's Hermiston Agricultural R & E Center, a number of fields and cultivars, including Russet Norkotah, Umatilla Russet, Alturas, Russet Ranger, a red cultivar and Pike, have been infected.

The bacteria causing zebra chip, Candidatus liberibacter, is vectored by the potato psyllid. The insect picks up the bacterium when feeding on an infected plant and transmits the bacterium to other plants. Eggs laid by an adult with the bacterium pass it on to later generations.

Hamm said that his early assessment is that the amount of psyllid infestation is minimal. The infestation has been found in the southern part of the Columbia Basin, southern Washington and northern Oregon.

"It's in a number of fields but in no one field is it a catastrophic issue," Hamm said. "Some fields might have 1 percent to 3 percent infestation."

He said that he knows of maybe 15 fields that have been affected.

"Some of these spots are individual plants or are three to five feet in diameter," Hamm said. "They're very confined areas of infection and that's what we've seen in all the fields."

Growers who were treating their fields with insecticides for other reasons may have unknowingly prevented the psyllids activity in their own fields.

Hamm said that it is believed that psyllids cannot winter in the Columbia Basin, but that could change with a mild winter.

Phil Nolte, University of Idaho seed pathology specialist, said that it's difficult to say if the discovery will be a huge problem but you have to treat it as such.

"I think we're foolish if we don't take this seriously. We're done for the season but we need to get some traps next year," he said.

"Management of the vector is straight forward. If you haven't done in furrow application, you have to be timely in your insecticide application," Nolte said.

With this announcement that they've actually found the disease in the Columbia Basin then I think that Idaho should be taking some steps to see if there's a potential for a problem," Nolte said.

For more information on zebra chip visit

Southeast of the Columbia Basin in northern Utah there has been confirmation of late blight infestation, close enough to be of concern to Idaho growers. The University of Idaho recommends that growers spray protective fungicide on a seven-day schedule for green growing potato crops.

Jeff Miller, of Miller Research in Rupert, Idaho, believes that most growers' crops are either dead, dying or within that range that the late blight infestation should not be a problem here in Idaho.

"I would think at this point in time, with the conditions of the crop in the middle of September, we've dodged the late blight bullet," Miller said.


Photo courtesy of Gary Secor and Viviana Rivera, North Dakota State University.

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Agro-Culture new facility

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Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers new facility fully operational

Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers new production facility in Ashley, Mich., reached full production capacity just more than a month ago.

The plant gives the company the ability to produce twice as much fertilizer as it was able to.

"The new facility can produce 30 million gallons of fertilizer," said Nick Bancroft, Agro-Culture vice-president.

"So in total we can produce 60 million gallons," said Troy Bancroft, Agro-Culture president.

"All of our products can be used on potatoes," Troy said. "We've got good NPK micronutrient programs with multiple applications methods. In furrow at planting, foliar, drip, whatever they're doing we can accommodate."

Company products include Pro-Germinator, a low-salt planting time fertilizer, Sure-K, a potassium fertilizer, High NRG-N, micronutrients, AccesS and Micro 500 Liberate Ca, ferti-Rain and enhance.

"We're a reduced-rate fertilizer, so the rate structures we have, we're putting on less nutrients. What we put on is more usable, better utilized by the crop so we can mitigate any off-site movement of fertilizers," Nick said.

Planning for the new plant began three years ago with site selection and design. Construction took about 18 months.

The current economic conditions did not hinder the company's expansion efforts.

"We've been on a program since 1999 to grow 20 percent a year," Troy said.

The company has nearly 600 acres dedicated to research to study plant nutrition and its effects on crops.

Though a lot of its business is in the Midwest, the company is expanding in the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest as well as in Canada, Mexico and Central America.

On Aug. 24, more than 1,500 people attended an open house at the new plant.

"It was quite an event for an opening of a plant in a small town," Troy said.

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