Aug 29, 2023
WSU doctoral student receives $10,000 Potato LEAF scholarship

A Ph.D. student at Washington State University is the recipient of a $10,000 scholarship from the Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation.

Jacob Meeuwsen is focused on intelligent potato water-use efficiency, land-use management practices and reducing water loss via evaporation and runoff. He is currently working to optimize predictive evapotranspiration and suggested irrigation amounts as they relate to changes in plant spatial arrangement and population and to utilize both to mitigate heat and water stress.

Jacob Meeuwsen is the recipient of a $10,000 scholarship from the Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation. Photo: Provided

Meeuwsen, a native of Kennewick, Washington, is also testing a novel irrigation method to maximize water use efficiency in potatoes, along with other aspects of irrigation, according to a news release. Meeuwsen plans to use information collected from his research to build a predictive evapotranspiration and irrigation app for potatoes.

“Receiving the Potato Leaf Scholarship is a great honor for me. It shows that the research I do means something to the potato industry,” Meeuwsen said in the release. “Receiving this scholarship will help me achieve my goals by inspiring me to think of new and innovative ways to help the potato industry become more sustainable and efficient.”

Meeuwsen, who began his Ph.D. research at WSU in May 2022 under the direction Mark J. Pavek, a professor and state potato Extension specialist, received a bachelor’s degree in crop science from the University of Idaho. He previously worked for ProGene Plant Research as a pulse breeder intern and greenhouse manager from 2020-2022. He also conducted experimental pesticide field trials for Syngenta.

“If successful, my research will aid potato growers on a daily basis and during extreme heat and water stress events by optimizing the plant water use efficiency, maximizing production and economic return,” Meeuwsen wrote in his application. “By improving irrigation and water-use efficiency, benefits will expand beyond the field and into American homes, preserving our water and livelihood.”

The scholarship is provided annually to one graduate student with a strong interest in research that can benefit the U.S. potato industry.

“Potato LEAF is dedicated to securing the long-term health of the U.S. potato industry by investing in the leaders of tomorrow, Jacob is the next bright piece of our future,” Gregg Halverson, foundation chair, said. “We are excited to aid Jacob as he furthers his education and continues his research that will advance the industry to a better, more sustainable future.”

Meeuwsen is a member of the Potato Association of America and secretary of the Tri-State Potato Research and Breeding Program. He will become the program’s committee chair in 2025.

“Jacob has assisted with many WSU research and extension activities. He is an intelligent team player with great work ethic, routinely exceeding my expectations,” Pavek wrote in his letter of recommendation. “After he graduates, he is interested in continuing his career within PNW agriculture, focusing on potato production.”

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