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February 2008

February 2008
  • Show Some Potato Love
  • Supporting Extension The Michigan economy is lagging behind the rest of the country, the result of a weakened manufacturing base. But while the state's agricultural base is growing, the state's budget is declining, so funding for more research and outreach to potato growers in the state is falling to the industry and its growers.
  • Washington's Norm Nelson Inc. The Skagit Valley in northwestern Washington is a fertile delta formed by the Skagit and Samish rivers. It was there in 1938 that then 22-year-old Norman Nelson began potato farming.
  • Wireless Watering In the small Montana farming town of Sidney, Robert Evans adjusts his Bluetooth. He's not chatting with colleagues or closing a business deal. He's watering his fields.
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Show Some Potato Love

February doesn’t have much going for it. It’s the shortest of the twelve months and is buried near the end of winter, when all people want is a warm day and sunshine (at least here in the Midwest). But the month does have Valentine’s Day. The occasion has usurped much of January in recent years, with red hearts, chocolates and teddy bears appearing in stores not too long after the new year starts. The “holiday” takes the No. 1 spot for flower sales during the year (with the rose the most popular), 10 percent of engagements happen on Valentine’s Day and more than 190 million greeting cards change hands, according to the U.S. Greeting Card Association. What’s interesting about that number is that men account for only 15 percent of card sales, which means that either women buy cards for many people, or there are a…  » Read more

Michigan growers fund research and Extension

This is the first story in a series about the future of university Extension in various states across the nation. The Michigan economy is lagging behind the rest of the country, the result of a weakened manufacturing base. But while the state’s agricultural base is growing, the state’s budget is declining, so funding for more research and outreach to potato growers in the state is falling to the industry and its growers. Extension History Michigan claims deep roots in scientific agriculture. In 1855, the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was founded near Lansing, the state capital. The college was one of the first to teach scientific agriculture, and it was a model for land-grant institutions established by the Morrill Act of 1862. Congress created the Cooperative Extension System in 1914 with the Smith-Lever Act. The system was a partnership between USDA and the 69 land-grant colleges in…  » Read more

Fertile delta provides grower with “world’s best” soil to grow specialty crops

The Skagit Valley in northwestern Washington is a fertile delta formed by the Skagit and Samish rivers. It was there in 1938 that then 22-year-old Norman Nelson began potato farming. The land, with its high organic matter content and cool, wet climate, was ideal for growing potatoes. “We probably have some of the best soil in the world,” said Jerry Nelson, president of Norm Nelson Inc. and son of the founder. In the mid-1940s, Norman Nelson bought an old packing shed and began packing his own product. He created the Double-N brand and logo, which the company still uses to this day. From its start, the company grew white potatoes. In the 1970s russets were added, but that lasted less than 10 years, while more acres were devoted to reds, yellows and the occasional purple variety. Norman Nelson Inc. grew White Rose from 1938 until the mid-1990s, when…  » Read more

New irrigation technologies from ARS can help conserve a vital resource

In the small Montana farming town of Sidney, Robert Evans adjusts his Bluetooth. He’s not chatting with colleagues or closing a business deal. He’s watering his fields. A research leader at the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory, Evans is using the latest in wireless communications technology to boost irrigation efficiency. Thanks to Bluetooth and a wireless network of small soil-moisture and temperature sensors, the field in front of him is able to continuously dictate its exact water needs. Signals sent to an irrigation station tell individual sprinklers just how much water to emit and where. This system, the ultimate in high-tech precision irrigation, was built around the concept that most agricultural fields are filled with environmental nuance. Because of factors like soil type, subsurface conditions, topography, drainage issues and disease problems, a piece of farmland that looks uniform on the surface is, in…  » Read more
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