LET’S TALK ABOUT WA POTATO SUSTAINABILITY
Washington potato growers are blessed to farm on magnificent soil and in a climate that produces the highest yield of potatoes in the world. They know that they are in control of this soil through their lifetimes, yet are committed to relinquishing it to the next generation of potato growers in a condition that will continue to provide those yields into the foreseeable future. That is why WA potato growers are fastidious about sustainability, that is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. To meet this sustainability goal, WA potato growers practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to manage potato insect pests, plant pathogens, and devastating nematodes with the bare minimum of pesticide inputs, and manage their soils with well-conceived crop rotations, cover crops, and green manures that contain soil erosion and enhance organic content and nutrients, while reducing soil-borne pathogens and nematodes. They also use sophisticated irrigation systems that provide just enough water and nutrients to optimize potato yield and not so much that water and nutrients leave the field. WA potato growers continually invest in research, at nearly $1 million annually, to refine IPM, develop earth-friendly ways of overcoming insect pests, pathogens, and nematodes, and enhance soil health. In fact, the WA potato growers and processors recently committed $3.4 million to invest in the hiring and laboratory outfitting of a Washington State University Distinguished Endowed Chair in Potato Soil Cropping Systems. The interest generated from this endowment will provide this scientist approximately $120,000 annually for research to heighten the sustainability of WA agricultural soils. WA potato growers also care about the sustainability of the citizens of WA. In 2020 after the devastating COVID-19 epidemic shut down much of the private sector causing mass layoffs, WA potato growers stepped up to deliver over 1 million pounds of nutritious potatoes free to WA residents throughout the state. Now THAT’s sustainability!