When Mike Thornton gets together with his brothers, Sam and Rob, you can count on potatoes being part of their conversation.
The Thornton boys grew up in a potato environment.
Their father, Robert is a professor emeritus of Horticulture from Washington State University. He was the states vegetable extension specialist from the late 1960s to his retirement four years ago.
"I still remember as a kid going out and tromping around in potato fields with my dad," said Mike Thornton while sitting in his office at the University of Idahos Parma Research and Extension Center.
Those days of youth spent in potato fields with their father must have had a cumulative effect on the all three boys. Mike is the superintendent of the Southwest Idaho Research and Extension Center and an associate professor of plant sciences at the University of Idaho, Sam works at Syngenta Seed Treatment and Rob
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Few agricultural segments have needed to adapt as much as the potato industry.
Sure, growers of all specialty crops and commodities have adopted new technology, from water-monitoring equipment to GPS-guided planters and harvesters. But potato growers faced with a declining market and rising input costs set about to become profitable by addressing the supply and demand side of the equation.
Reducing acreage nationwide reduced the overabundance of potatoes on the market, and marketing campaigns and increased exports have helped to address the demand side.
Nowhere is this new emphasis on marketing more visible than at the Produce Marketing Associations Fresh Summit, held in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 25-27. A few years ago, potato products could be found on the edges of the show floor with small booths and limited displays. But at the last two Fresh Summit shows, potato marketers and grower/shippers have moved into the
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The year was 1977. Tom Campbell had just completed high school. He wasnt simply looking for a job, he was searching for a vocation a lifelong career. He learned how to operate a potato harvester that first year in order to plant potatoes with his brother Bill in 1978. A neighboring farmer was retiring and offered his potato equipment to him for $11,000.
I was as green as I could be, Campbell said, reflecting back on his introduction to potato farming, but the equipment consisted of a planter, a harvester, a truck, a bin piler, Bobcat loader, and other miscellaneous equipment. My younger brother Bill and I had everything we needed to plant and harvest a crop of potatoes.
Their first crop was 120 acres of red potatoes. Little did Campbell suspect from this beginning that he would one day be serving the national potato industry
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Total seed acres certified in the United States for 2008 remained about the same as last year at 109,211 acres. Thats down from almost 132,300 acres five years ago. However, the Top 20 varieties for 2008 make up a larger percentage of total acreage than last year, but a smaller percentage over the five-year average. The 78,933 acres dedicated to the Top 20 varieties account for 72 percent of total acreage, but over the last five years the top varieties have accounted for an average of 76 percent of total acres.
The No. 1 variety continues to be the Russet Burbank, but that variety continues its decade-long decline in seed acres. In 2008, 24,324 acres of Russet Burbank were certified, a 14 percent decline from last season and a 36 percent decline from five years ago. Idaho certified 14,132 acres of Russet Burbank in 2008, nearly
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