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Touchdown to Perfect Spuds

Alumni tailgate bash feeds WSU potato research

Four people from J.R. Simplot Company, one is holding a tray of fries.
Mighty potatoes: Partners from the J.R. Simplot Co. presented their finest fries at the Simplot-Washington Potatoes Tailgate Party, held prior to the Boise State football game Sept. 9 in Pullman.

Washington grows more potatoes per acre than any other state, and our $4.6 billion spud industry turns out the best ones in the world. Neighbor state Idaho, home of the Boise State Broncos, is famous for its number one cash crop, with more than 13 million pounds of potatoes harvested annually.

So it wasn’t surprising that fresh, hot French fries were the hit of the party last fall, when the J.R. Simplot Company and the Washington Potato Commission hosted a tailgate bash for alumni from WSU and Boise State on Sept. 9 on the Hulbert Hall Plaza.

Both organizations support CAHNRS researchers in their quest to breed better potatoes and halt devastating virus and insect threats, like the tiny Psyllid insect—which spreads a disease called zebra chip that leaves potatoes with black lines, a bitter taste, and no chance of being sold.

Scientists like horticulture professor Rick Knowles help Northwest farmers grow spuds that not only resist heat stress and disease but also stay fresh longer and grow to the ideal size, shape, and texture for perfect French fries and other value-added products.

“Working with partners like Simplot ensures our research is directly useful for farmers and industry,” he said. “These partnerships help our students work on real-world problems that increase the competitiveness of the potato industry, adds value to their research, and can also lead to new career opportunities.”

The ongoing partnership with the Commission and Simplot also produces environmentally sound farming practices, new irrigation and harvest techniques, and better equipment designs.

The end goal: better spuds and happier farmers. Now that’s an idea that anybody, Cougar and Bronco fans, can sink their teeth into.

A football displayed with fries and two flags with logos from SImplot and Washington Potatoes.