Potato Grower

August 2020/IGSA 2020

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WWW.POTATOGROWER.COM 19 956.682.6176 www.solutionsbyfox.com SUPERIOR Optical Sorting. Simultaneous Sorting By Quality, Size and Shape with Top-of-the- Line Camera Technology in a 4 or 12 Lane Configuration Celox P-UHD for Potatoes 4079-8FoxSolutions16h.indd 1 4079-8FoxSolutions16h.indd 1 7/1/20 10:17 AM 7/1/20 10:17 AM agricultural producers have been left wondering how their management practices impact soil health and productivity. Thus, a project was initiated in southern Idaho to assess how local management practices impact soil health metrics while engaging growers in the process in order to increase adoption rates. In collaboration among 10 conservation districts, growers, NRCS and University of Idaho Extension personnel, a total of 31 production fields were assessed in the summer of 2019 across southern Idaho. These fields will be assessed each year for a total of five years. Fields represented a wide range of crops, management practices and soil textures. Samples were collected for analysis of soil's chemical, physical and biological properties. Results from the first year of analysis showed that total microbial biomass, which is the measure of microbial populations, were highest in perennial, no-till fields. However, there were several standout results from fields planted to annual cash crops. For example, two of the sites planted to corn had high microbial populations, which is likely due to no-tillage and cover cropping practices. Future assessments will reveal whether these are indeed actual trends. Although no potato fields were assessed in the first year, we anticipate that they will be included in future years as part of the rotation. In order to increase project engagement in 2020, growers were encouraged to take part in the "Soil Your Undies" initiative in order to evaluate their soil's health by burying and assessing decomposition of 100 percent cotton underwear in paired fields. This study will not only help elucidate soil health parameters that are both most indicative of soil functioning and sensitive to management changes in the Magic Valley, but also empower growers to monitor their progress toward healthier soil. IDAHO POTATO SOIL HEALTH PROJECT Up until now, we really have not had a good way to define healthy potato soils or understand how management practices affect soil health in potato cropping systems. That situation is changing due to a new national project called "Enhancing Soil Health in U.S. Potato Production Systems" that was initiated in 2019. The project seeks to establish physical, chemical and biological indicators of soil health, especially as they relate to disease management. The project will take place through 2022 and involves over 24 researchers and collaborators in 10 states. A team at the University of Idaho is leading the part of the project that focuses on evaluating the economics of management practices that impact soil health. UI and Miller Research are also partnering to conduct long-term studies on the impact of rotation length, compost, green manures and fumigation on soil health. Another portion of the project focuses on evaluating the spatial variability of soil characteristics that are associated with disease incidence, as well as potato yield and quality. To do that, researchers have been working with cooperating growers to grid sample commercial fields in south eastern Idaho. The fields surveyed in 2019 were near Fort Hall and have a long history of potato production. Wide ranges in levels of Verticillium wilt, marketable yield, tuber size distribution and specific gravity have been documented. The project is in the process of working to relate those production variables to the measures of physical, chemical and biological characteristics at each of the sample locations. When combined with the data from other states and across multiple years, researchers hope to gain insight into what factors contribute to healthy potato soils. Interested readers can get more information and follow progress on the potato soil health project at https://potatosoilhealth.cfans.umn.edu. Linda Schott is a soils and nutrient management specialist based at the University of Idaho's Twin Falls Research & Extension Center. Mike Thornton is a plant scientist and chair of UI's Parma Research & Extension Center.

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