Oct 26, 2023
Michigan Potato Industry Commission recipient of environmental award

The Michigan Potato Industry Commission is a recipient of an award recognizing environmentally focused agricultural efforts, specifically in the areas of soil health and water conservation efficiency.

Michigan State University’s G.W. Bird Family Foundation for Environmentally Sound Agriculture, established in 2022 in honor of MSU Entomology Professor Emeritus George Bird, is recognizing the MPIC with its 2023 Hero Award.

The G.W. Bird Family Foundation’s Hero Awards debuted last year with the inaugural recipient being scientist and MSU researcher Stuart Gage.

In 2011, the Michigan potato industry identified soil heath as a key topic for research, according to a news release. Bird credited Don Sklarczyk of Sklarczyk Seed Farms in Johannesburg, Michigan, among others, for recognizing soil health as an area that needed improvement and for helping make the research project a reality.

With support from MPIC and participation of several Michigan potato farms, the research project detailed soil health improvements between 2012 and 2022 at 68 sites in 17 commercial potato fields in Mecosta and Montcalm counties. Specific criteria for the fields included each farm’s top potato-yielding field, a field with a history of scab, and a field with severe potato early die disease issues.

Between the 2012 initial samples and the 2022 retesting, growers focused on four key areas: increased use of cover crops and compost, reduced chemical inputs, and reduced tillage. Using the Cornell University Soil Health Laboratory’s 12 soil health indicators, researchers, including Bird, determined that 100% of the 68 sites showed increased available water capacity, soil organic matter and active carbon. In addition, 94% of the fields had a reduction in root-lesion nematodes.

“Working with many researchers over the years, some stand out with the ability to provide their knowledge in a way to allow science-based practical application to be implemented,” Sklarczyk said. “Dr. Bird was one who would capture and hold an audience’s attention and deliver a message in an understandable way.”

To honor the award winners, the G.W. Bird Family Foundation is organizing the first Environmentally Sound Agricultural Day at MSU on Nov. 16. It will include a lecture by Tim Boring, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development director, as well as an international discussion. Both events are open to the public.

The day will start at noon with an international roundtable discussion featuring AgroLead CEO Gulunaz Kaseeva of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and Karim Maredia, director of MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, International Programs. Boring’s keynote presentation will follow.

The day will conclude with a reception and dinner to honor the 2023 award winners.

Email [email protected]  for more information.

75 Applewood Dr. Ste. A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


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