50th Anniversary

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All 50th Anniversary Articles

Potato storage evolution

Potato storage evolution

Walt Sparks. His name is synonymous with potato storage. Potato storage systems have come a long way from the days of old A-frame, non-ventilated buildings. And Sparks is the person most often cited as the first researcher into potato storage theory. You can’t discuss the history and evolution of potato storage systems without his name popping up. Whether speaking with research scientists or business professionals, Walt Sparks will enter the discussion at some point. While Sparks was a research scientist at the University of Idaho’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center from 1947 to 1981, his influence in the development of storage systems continues into the 21st century. “Walt was the grandfather of air movement within a storage,” Bob Thornton said. End of ‘seat of pants’ management Thornton and Willy Iritani, each a professor emeritus of horticulture at Washington State University (WSU), are cited by many…  » Read more
50 Years: Potato Production Evolution

50 Years: Potato Production Evolution

Potato planting has gone from two- and four-row planters to six- and even up to 12 row planters, without anymore workers on the machines, poking seed to flow better. Instead of people, there are row monitors and seed piece counters. GPS and auto-steer mechanisms have taken the place of row markers on the planters. The payloader replaced the men filling the planters by hand. Instead of cutting seed of any size, we have sized seed and separate the B size tubers. Chemical control went from DDT and Paris Green to soil-applied insecticides. Soil-applied fungicides came on the scene, reducing soil-borne pathogens such as Rhizoctonia. In earlier years, contact chemicals were mostly applied on the foliage, then came the pre-emergence chemicals and the systemic and trans-laminar fungicides. Black dot disease appeared, after pink eye and pink rot. A simple PVY disease became PVYo, PVYn, PVYn:o, PVYntn.…  » Read more
50 Years: Disease and Pest Control

50 Years: Disease and Pest Control

The rise and fall of the potato has been inextricably linked to the diseases and pests that feast on the tuber. The repercussions of late blight on the country of Ireland in the 19th century extended across the Atlantic Ocean, forcefully impacting the very development of the United States. Every March 17, you can witness the Irish impact from Boston and New York westward to Chicago and further west to Butte, Montana. Growers today have a better handle on disease and pest management, but it is a tentative and precarious balance of power that is constantly being challenged by disease and pest resistance.Over a century ago, growers were using sodium chloride, lime and sulfur to try and control late blight. Their efforts proved to be more futile than practical. In the 1880s, the first effective compound, composed of copper sulfate and lime, was called a…  » Read more
50 Years: History of Irrigation Manufacturing

50 Years: History of Irrigation Manufacturing

There have been a lot of innovations in agriculture and the potato industry throughout the years. From the first self-powered tractors to today's GPS-guided, air-conditioned behemoths. Potato harvesters, planters, windrowers and climate-controlled storage sheds have all made giant strides in improving the means, quality and yield of the crop. However, it all comes down to water in agriculture. Without a reliable water source and without an efficient and effective means to get that water to your plants, all the newest equipment and latest innovations won't do you much good come harvest time.The irrigation companies profiled here share a pattern of entrepreneurial development. All are now global, multinational corporations taking the green revolution of irrigation to the far corners of the world. In Robert Morgan's book, "Water and the Land: A History of American Irrigation," he traces the development of field irrigation, from surface irrigation to…  » Read more
50 Years: Making Machinery

50 Years: Making Machinery

Machine shops. They're in most small towns and rural communities. Whether it's on Main Street, some back-alley location, next to a two-lane highway or in the middle of a wide-open field, that's where you'll find someone pounding out an implement or fabricating a piece for a planter, a harvester or a piler. In many ways machine shops and metal fabrication shops are where many of today's major equipment manufacturers began. With an original idea, an innovation, an improvement on a piece of equipment that comes from field experience and the discovery that there's a better way to do it - whatever "it" may be. Whether it was a new design, a new model or simply tinkering on a piece of equipment that's how Spudnik, Harriston, Mayo, Crary, Lockwood and Milestone first began their entry into the potato equipment field. Just as farms have grown larger…  » Read more

50 Years: Farmers are the Backbone of America

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of the life led by the men and women who produce potatoes is its wholesomeness. There are, of course, headwinds: harvesting while watching input prices continually pushing higher (diesel, labor, fertilizer and all the rest ... phosphate now up 68 percent). There's the stress on margins, and pests and weather never take a bank holiday. Growers are scientists, accountants, managers, mechanics, conservationists, marketers and political activists all rolled into one. But through it all much of the pleasure in the grower's profession is his surroundings: the peace of a distant horizon, the smell of thawing soil in spring, the power grinding progress of wheels, belts and diggers and finally the clean, eerie quiet of the crop, finally at rest in storage. Growers treasure their independence, backing up their ideas with their own labor and capital, confident that when neighbors see…  » Read more
Top 10 List

Top 10 List

It's hard to believe Spudman is 50 years old this year and even harder to think about all of the challenges the industry has gone through over the past five decades to remain prosperous. I spent some time looking over hundreds of issues of Spudman magazines and came up with a list of the Top 10 Most Significant Influences on the potato industry. #10 - Government price supports. Beginning in 1941 and through the World War II years, potatoes received mandatory government price supports. They were to last through the wars years and two years after. This led to huge surpluses and the dumping of potatoes that cost the government several hundred million dollars and damaged markets for nearly a decade. #9 - Food Quality Protection Act. The implementation of the most comprehensive and historic overhaul of the nation's pesticide and food safety laws in…  » Read more
True Grit

True Grit

It took a one-eyed photographer with a vision for a national potato magazine to create Spudman magazine 50 years ago. The fact that Dan Crawford wasn't a very good farmer, by his own estimation, probably played a role in the creation of this magazine in Tulelake, Calif. Eighty-nine years young, today Crawford lives in an assisted-living apartment in Klamath Falls, Ore., just 30 miles north of Tulelake. His wife of 68 years, Ardina, died in the fall of 2010. Despite the infirmities of time Crawford still enjoys talking about starting up the magazine while making self-deprecatory asides about his own lack of experience in the publishing business when he began Spudman.Crawford's tale of Spudman's origin is one of grit, determination and perseverance, from a concept to reality and then to the successful enterprise that continues to this day. Crawford describes himself as "just an old…  » Read more