Potato Grower

June 2018

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WWW.POTATOGROWER.COM 35 increase our testing throughput. In 2013 we began testing dormant tubers as a service to our growers. That first year, we tested over 8,000 tubers and have tripled that number with this past season's post-harvest testing. In the future, we plan to explore additional methods, including robotics to improve our testing capacity. In 2012, we also obtained funding from an SCBG to survey garden seed potatoes that were coming into the state. Montana has a closed seed potato certification system and does not allow seed potatoes from outside Montana to be re-certified. However, we do not have control on what comes in for commercial potato production or garden seed. Survey results of potatoes imported into Montana through retail outlets, mail-order catalogs and internet sales revealed that many lots had no certification labels or information on origin. In two years of testing, our lab detected PVY in 40 percent of the seed lots; the average level of PVY in the infected seed lots was 31 percent. In a third year of testing, we detected similar levels of PVY, but even scarier was the detection of bacterial ring rot in two samples originating from catalog purchases. This revealed a significant threat to our seed potato production areas and heightened the urgency for insuring that healthy certified seed potatoes be planted in home gardens. In any given year, Montana certifies 70 to 80 potato varieties, including many specialty varieties demanded by home gardeners. Still, we did not have an effective means to get these varieties from producers to retailers and ultimately to the gardeners. SCBG funding was again pursued to develop a garden seed directory, website and distribution network to get Montana certified seed potatoes into the hands of home gardeners. The first three years of the distribution network, the Montana State University potato lab gathered over 20 varieties of seed potatoes from growers and delivered them to county extension offices, garden centers, truck gardens and home centers throughout the state. This dramatically improved the availability of Montana certified seed potatoes and also supplied the gardeners with a fantastic variety of potatoes. In 2016, the ultimate goal of this project was realized when one of our seed potato farms, Holbrook Seed Potatoes, owned by Scott and Laci Holbrook, took over the network. The Holbrooks are selling their own seed potatoes as well as seed from other Montana growers with the same clientele as a base. "The program has been rewarding in that we get to meet some amazing people who are excited about Montana certified seed and very happy with the quality," says Laci Holbrook. "It makes me wonder what the seed they purchased looked like before. Also, I hope we are doing our industry a service in preventing some very diseased seed from coming in from out-of-state." Montana seed potato growers are visionaries in the U.S. potato industry who employ the latest developments in agricultural technologies to produce high-quality seed potatoes. They have invested heavily in instrumentation and staff for diagnostics of potato diseases. The ability to leverage their investment and vision through SCGB funds will ensure that our diagnostic programs will evolve to meet emerging challenges to seed potato health. Since 1972, Western Trailers has been building the highest quality, light weight potato trailers in the industry! Not only are our Spud Express Trailers the strongest, they are also the most gentle and even unloading potato trailers available on the market today! Learn more at www.westerntrailer.com or call 888.344.2539 Building the best and making it better…your way! 171408WesTra12h.indd 1 1/3/18 9:30 AM

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