University of Lethbridge shows industry partners its growing potato research activities

Dr. Dmytro Yevtushenko, research chair for potato science at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, talks about his potato research as part of an open house for potato growers and processors (Courtesy: University of Lethbridge)

Each year, the Potato Industry injects more than $1 billion into the economy of the Canadian province Alberta, according to industry professionals.

Terence Hochstein, executive director with the Potato Growers of Alberta:

“The potato industry in this province is not just in southern Alberta, but province-wide.”

“We have about 55,000 acres of production within this province, making us one of the largest growing areas in Canada.”
Hoping to expand on that market, the University of Lethbridge has opened the doors to its Potato Research Lab on Friday, which showcases the work being done to support producers when growing the tasty spuds.

Terence Hochstein:

“It’s a program that has been 10 years in the works. It’s between the industry, the Potato Growers, Cavendish Farms, Lamb Weston, McCain’s and the university.”

“It’s a collaborative project to create a first-of-its kind program in Canada, specifically focusing on potato research.”
Looking to harvest local solutions to common problems, the project brings together not only industry professionals, but also generations of future researchers, helping build a stronger spud sector in the years to come.

Dr. Dmytro Yevtushenko, research chair for potato science at the University of Lethbridge:

“The uniqueness of this position is not only to conduct basic studies of potato biology and physiology, but also to translate this knowledge in an official way into practical application in fields.”
Unique in Alberta is the method of potato growth using irrigation. One farmer says the contraction of product diseases is a worry many growers in the area face, but it’s something he hopes working with this research project will help alleviate.

Harold Perry, from Perry Spud Farms:

“There’s a lot of pathogens out there and diseases, so the idea is to keep the seed as clean as possible to get to us and then you have a disease-free seed, and a lot of the research here is to help us get to that stage.”
It’s a problem the project hopes to help tackle, along with many others. Ten years in the making, and with a growing list of partners, the project is expanding to a bigger lab in the university’s new science building next fall.