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Distinguished Endowed Chair in Soil Health for Potato Cropping Systems

The College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University is preparing to fill a new Distinguished Endowed Chair in Soil Health for Potato Cropping Systems.

Backed by a more than $3 million fund created by potato growers, processors, and suppliers, this leading scientist will direct research into healthier, more productive soils for the potato industry, addressing the need for a better understanding of how microorganisms and physical properties of the soil affect potato health, quality, and yields.


The Chair will create and lead an applied research program that is integrated and closely collaborates with growers and industry in the Columbia Basin to develop practical methods, means and risk management tools to promote soil health for the purpose of improving potato productivity. The research will improve the efficiency and productivity (yield, quality and economic stability) of potato cropping systems by focusing research on soil ecosystems in Columbia Basin potato cropping systems, which includes potatoes, rotation crops with potatoes, and cover crops. The Chair will collaborate with and complement other soil research and extension activities conducted by WSU including the WSU Statewide Soil Health Program Leader, and other PNW public and private sector scientists, extension professionals, crop consultants, growers, and processors.

 

The Endowed Chair position was created by the Columbia Basin Soil Health for Potato Cropping Systems Advisory Council, who raised the funding (> $3M) for the position and conceptualized the initial research goals for the endowment-funded research. The Advisory Council is made up of industry leaders from (alphabetically):

  • AgriNorthwest
  • Corteva Agriscience
  • J.R. Simplot Company
  • Lamb Weston
  • McCain Foods
  • Oregon Potato Company
  • Stahl Hutterian Brethren
  • Trical Soil Solutions
  • Washington State Potato Commission

Comments from Advisory Council Members

“The mission of the Washington State Potato Commission is to support an economically and environmentally sustainable potato community by providing strong leadership, innovation, and building partnerships to meet the demands of our global consumers. The yield and quality of Washington potatoes is unmatched worldwide. Potatoes grow underground, which can make them very susceptible to soil-borne organisms that can either enhance potato production or destroy potato production. The Washington State University Endowed Chair in Soil Health for Potato Cropping Systems will guide the next generation of potato soil science and lead to the adoption of sustainable and profitable soil management strategies. Advances in scientific techniques can now shed light on soil ecology, chemistry, and physics in more detail than ever. Understanding details of the interactions among organisms in the soil and crops represents the next frontier in agriculture. These insights will be used to maintain or enhance our growers’ environmental and economic sustainability while helping them to produce the potatoes necessary to feed the world’s hungry population. We believe soil health is a key factor in accomplishing these goals and will help us continue to produce the high quality potatoes the world has come to expect from the Columbia Basin.”

 

“As the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen French fries, hash browns, tater tots, and onion rings, McCain Foods fully supports the WSU Endowed Chair in Soil Health for Potato Cropping Systems. Part of our Global Agriculture Initiative includes evaluating technologies that promote sustainable crop improvements while increasing potato yield and improving quality. McCain Foods recognizes that soil health is an important solution for climate change. The building up and maintenance of soil health ensures healthy soil for generations to come. In addition, soil health is an important aspect of water quality, which is enhanced with healthy soils, helping to provide clean water for communities and farmers alike. McCain Foods also views soil health as a critical element of our growers’ financial sustainability by improving their profitability with potato quality and yield. McCain Foods is proud to be a founding sponsor of the Soil Health Endowed Chair position and we look forward to being an active partner with WSU in the future.”

 

“At Corteva Agriscience, our purpose is to enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come. We do this by putting farmers and consumers at the heart of everything we do. By providing innovative solutions in seed, crop protection and digital, we help farmers sustainably maximize their yields and improve their profitability, while ensuring an abundant food supply for a growing global population.

The WSU Endowed Chair in Soil Health for Potato Cropping Systems is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to that purpose through our actions. To endure and thrive, agriculture must sustainably meet the needs of a growing population, and Corteva is dedicated to protecting the land, crop yields and long-term success of the agriculture industry.

Our goal, as a founding sponsor of this unique endowed chair position, is to support high quality applied research addressing the needs of growers while assessing the impact of production practices on soil health. Together these will deliver benefits for an affordable and abundant food supply, while improving soil health to increase the capacity of crops to withstand weather variability, enhance air and water quality, and support thriving habitats.

We are pleased to continue our tradition of support and service to the potato industry by building on our industry-leading pipeline and proven crop protection solutions like Vydate Insecticide/Nematicide to produce a high-quality harvest. We hope this endowment serves as a model for collaboration for communities the world-over.”

Learn More, Provide Support

To learn more about the position, contact Scot Hulbert, Associate Dean and Director, CAHNRS Office of Research, at scot_hulbert@wsu.edu

To support the Distinguished Endowed Chair in Soil Health, please contact Nicholas Dolce, CAHNRS Senior Director of Development, at nick.dolce@wsu.edu