Researcher Q&A: Phil Nolte, University of Idaho

Market Report

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An Eye to the Sky
With acreage management keeping potato supply in step with demand and a recent uptick in potato consumption, many growers are optimistic about the 2008 season and beyond. But there is one variable growers can never count on: the weather.

Last weekís tornadoes that swept through the South are the most recent example of how volatile the weather can be. Those twisters Ė many of them rated second highest on the tornado power scale Ė killed almost 60 people and devastated towns in five states. Other areas of the country have seen inordinate amounts of snowfall, including the Cascade Mountains in western Washington, while other growing areas are looking for more snowpack so there wonít be water restrictions this season.

Farmers always have a cautious eye to the sky, and 2008 is no different. But the potato industryís optimism isnít misplaced and, barring any major weather disasters this season, could be the best one in recent memory.

Researcher Q&A
Phil Nolte, Extension Professor, University of Idaho
What are some of the new issues regarding seed?
The Alberta PCN find and PVY, those are the two big stories. The PCN finding in Alberta seed production areas Ė thatís huge. Itís probably impacting the Washington growing area more than anywhere else.

Some of the issues weíre dealing with in the Alberta situation are going throughout the industry. The borderís closed, and there doesnít seem to be any help coming. So, weíll wait and see.

One of the implications of the finding in Canada is who might have gotten this seed on this side of the border. Itís been used to increase stock for seed producers who need purchasing for growing on the farm. Now, itís bad enough that you might have contaminated some production areas, such as the Columbia basin, but you may have contaminated some seed-growing areas as well.

Itís a delicate area and everyoneís nervous about it. If you have contaminated ground, the U.S. government comes down on you with both boots, and you have a lot of people on your farm that you wish werenít there. Itís got everybody nervous, and everyoneís waiting to see how it works out.

The other question is, who knows what the overall seed supply situation is like? If Alberta supplies 5 percent of the entire U.S., thatís quite a bit different than just what goes into Washington state.

We just donít have good numbers. We can give you a pretty good idea of how many acres have been planted and what variety . . . . I donít think anyone has a good handle on exactly what that isÖ. The people who keep those records donít share them.

What about resistant varieties?
Thereís been a change in thinking at the breeding programs to seek out resistance to pale cyst nematode and incorporate it into the variety. Itís going to take a little time for the industry to respond and come up with resistant varieties.

There are a number of varieties resistant to golden nematode, but not many for pale cyst nematode. It may be easier to get our hands on golden nematode-resistant varieties than it would be to get our hands on pale cyst nematode resistance.

What about Potato Virus Y?
We have a better story to tell there. We have a crop coming up that is lower in PVY than ever before.

I donít like to see seed with more than 10 percent PVY. Thatís my personal preference. Lower is always better, but you wonít see any yield loss at 10 percent. At 20 to 30 percent you start to see considerable yield loss.

What should growers do to prepare for their seed shipments?
Itís always good to make sure youíve cleaned up the facility where youíre going to store the seed. Sweep the floor and get rid of all the dirt and potato chunks.

We recommend disinfection of the storage facility. It really is a three-part process that involves cleaning up dirt and the old potato debris and getting rid of that dirt and organic load. Then we recommend you wash with soap and water; then you use a disinfectant. And all of those things work better with a low organic load and clean surface. The soap and water part starts the process of disinfection because it gives a clean surface for the disinfectant to work on.

We recommend applying that (disinfectant) material and keeping that surface wet with the disinfectant for at least 10 minutes. All of the disinfectants tested at North Dakota State University would kill with 10 minutes of exposure. They all work better if you give them the opportunity.

You can apply those same techniques to the equipment that will be handling the seed. And that includes the planter.

If you are going to be cutting seed and healing it before you plant it, suberization, or the wound healing process, requires temperatures of 50-55ļ F. It requires oxygen, so you need good air flow and high humidity.

We recommend piling no more than 6 feet high, and piling it over pipes that keep the air floeing through the pile. Your problem may not be keeping it warm enough; it may be keeping it cool enough.

One of the prime rotters of seed potatoes is bacterial ring rot. It loves low oxygen and warm, wet conditions. The seed wonít heal and the bacterium can work both sides of the equation, with oxygen or without. TEXT


Market Report
Prices for 5-pound bags of potatoes at retail stores dipped as low as 98 cents and rose as high as $3.99 for the week of Feb. 1, according to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Fruit and Vegetable Retail Report.

Stores in the Northeast had the highest average price, ranging from $2 to $3.99 for a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes. The Northeast also had the greatest number of advertisements for potatoes, with 900 stores advertising the 5-pound bag.

Nearly 900 stores advertised potatoes in the Southeast, where the average price ranged from $1.50 to $2.99 for the 5-pound bag of russets.

Midwestern stores saw prices range from 99 cents to $2.99 for a 5-pound bag, with fewer than 350 stores advertising potatoes.

Retail stores in the south-central United States had the largest price variation and the fewest number of advertising mentions. About 150 stores advertised a 5-pound bag of russets, and prices varied between 98 cents and $2.50.

Demand for storage potatoes was light to moderate in early February. Russet Norkotahs from Wisconsin were selling for $9.50 to $10.50 for 40-, 50-, 60- and 70-count 50-pound cartons. Film bags (five 10-pound bags) from the state were selling for $8 to $9 for 5-ounce to 9-ounce tubers and $6 to $7 for non-size A.

Norkotahs from the Columbia Basin of Washington and Umatilla Basin of Oregon were shipping for $9 to $10 for 50-pound cartons. Klamath Basin potatoes were slightly higher, at $10 to $11 for 50-pound cartons of 40s through 80s.

Russet Burbank potatoes out of Idaho had fairly light demand. Prices ranged from $11 to $11.50 for 40- through 80-count cartons.

Round red potatoes from the Red River Valley had fairly good demand for size A potatoes. Fifty-pound sacks ranged from $7.25 to $7.75.

Movement of chipping potatoes was light, with Michigan round white chippers selling for $8.75 per cwt.


New Products and Markets
PICTUREA Japanese company has introduced a potato product that is an alternative to a traditional Japanese food.

Shidax Corp. began marketing potato mochi in December to Japanese consumers who enjoy eating mochi but canít chew or swallow the traditional type. Mochi is a rice cake that is pounded into a paste and then shaped. Itís often made in a ceremony called mochitsuki, and is popular around New Yearís but eaten year round. Every New Year, there are media reports about people who die choking on the traditional rice mochi.

Shidax, a karaoke, restaurant and institutional foodservice company, took part in a U.S. Potato Board-sponsored Dehy Menu Development project that explored uses for U.S. dehy flakes and cubes in Japanese menus.