50th Anniversary of WSU Potato Seed Trials


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the partnership between the Washington State Potato Commission (WSPC) and Washington State University (WSU) for potato seed lot trials. The anniversary was celebrated during the annual Potato Field Day at WSU's Othello Research Station.

Each year WSU's Othello Research Station is home to hundreds of trial plots of potato seed samples. The different varieties of seed are grown and monitored for quality factors such as disease, virus, herbicide and other potential damages. As most of Washington's commercial potato growers typically purchase their seed potatoes from seed-growing regions outside of the area, the trials also provide a venue where both the seed producers and growers can view how the seed varieties perform in eastern Washington.

"What makes this event significant is not that it is just celebrating 50 years, but that it is a leading example of the type of success that industry and the university sector can have when they work together," said Dr. Mark Pavek, associate professor and potato extension and research specialist for WSU. "Potato seeds are a living organism and as such are susceptible to a wide range of diseases and viruses. These trials help to provide the growers with a legitimate voice about the quality of their seed."

According to Raina Spence, director of industry outreach for the WSPC, "The WSPC and WSU have a longstanding collaboration that has made the seed lot trial a vital part of our research portfolio. The funding for the trials comes directly from the WSPC's Research & Technical Committee's annual budget. Then extension professionals, research scientists and graduate students from WSU participate yearly with the planting, monitoring and coordinating of the trials."

One example that highlights the significance of the seed lot trials to Washington's potato growers and the strength of the partnership between both organizations comes from the recent donation that the WSPC made to WSU's Othello Research Station. Outdated irrigation equipment used at the research station began to threaten the success of the effort. As a result, the WSPC purchased three center pivots as part of a revamp of the station's irrigation system to ensure that the seed lot trials and other research efforts at the station will continue far into the future.

"The significance of the donation of the irrigation system from the WSPC cannot be overstated," said Pavek. "The system provides state-of-the-art technology and brings the research station into the modern potato-growing era. It has already proven critical in allowing us to save time and labor and has provided better management of pests, weeds and fertilizer application, since they can all be applied through the new system."

The total contribution from the WSPC for the updated irrigation system was $150,000. In the course of the past 50 years of the seed lot trials, this is the first year that that the seed trials will be under overhead irrigation.

If you would like to know more about the Potato Field Day or the Seed Lot Trials please contact Raina Spence at the WSPC, 509-765-8845.

Established in 1956, the mission of the WSPC is to support an economically and environmentally sustainable Washington State potato industry by providing strong leadership and innovation and building partnerships to meet the demands of global consumers. For more information about the WSPC, Washington potatoes or other general inquiries please visit www.potatoes.com or call 509-765-8845.