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June 23: WSU Potato Field Day offers a look at seed and pest studies, virus-sniffing dog

Participants gather at the 2019 WSU Potato Field Day at Othello.

At their 400-acre Othello research farm, Washington State University scientists study seed quality, new varieties, pests, and growing practices to help Northwest potatoes thrive and become better French fries, chips, and tots. Growers can view the latest discoveries at the 2022 WSU Potato Field Day, Thursday, June 23, at Othello.

Mark Pavek, professor, potato specialist, and event host of WSU:
 
"Field days help everybody involved in potatoes, from researchers to growers and processors, share ideas and see what’s happening in our research."
The day includes guided tours and demonstrations, including a visit from a potato disease-sniffing dog, trained to sniff out Potato Virus Y, a serious pathogen facing Northwest growers.

Spread by aphids and via seeds from infected plants, Potato Virus Y causes lower yields and, in some cases, smaller, unsightly tubers with rings of dying flesh. Led by her handler Andrea Parish of Nose Knows Scouting, Zora, a black Labrador retriever, can detect infected potato tubers and plant materials.
 
Zora, a black Labrador retriever, can detect infected potato tubers and plant materials.

Zora, a black Labrador retriever, can detect infected potato tubers and plant materials.

Andrea Parish:
 
"In tubers, she can tell you instantly, yes or no. She really enjoys working just to work."
Scientists from WSU, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Montana State University, and the University of Idaho will discuss the disease, before launching the highlight of the event: commercial seed lot trials on health, quality, and performance of dozens of current potato varieties grown from seed.

Plant disease experts from across the Northwest assist WSU scientists in studying and evaluating these lots.

Mark Pavek:
 
"The seed lot trial is both a quality control tool and a historical gauge for the industry, helping growers see how varieties perform, while giving us a way to recognize, diagnose, and identify seed-borne diseases and viruses."

"We’ve been conducting these trials for 59 years in cooperation with growers and the Washington State Potato Commission."
Field day presentations are split between sessions on cultural practices, and pests and diseases. Experts from across the Pacific Northwest will share promising chip and speciality varieties from the Tri-State Breeding Program, solutions for pest and disease control, and ideas for maximizing economic return, among more than a dozen topics.
 
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