New public-private partnership will improve seed potato production in state
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a new partner to improve the efficiency of seed potato production at the Lelah Starks Elite Foundation Seed Potato Farm, in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.
The farm, part of the university’s Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Program, produces early generation seed potatoes for the state’s producers and other farmers for a fee.
This fall, a group of four seed potato growers, including Eagle River Seed Farm, Baginski Farms, Schroeder Brothers Farms, and J.W. Mattek & Sons, formed the Wisconsin Potato Coalition (WPC) to assume operations of planting, growing, and harvesting seed at the Lelah Starks Farm for crop year 2023 and beyond.
The growers have decades of production and business experience between them.
Under the new arrangement, the private WPC will manage the approximately 100 acres of early generation seed potatoes along with several hundred acres of rotational crops.
The WPC’s goal is to provide clean, early-generation foundation seed to the Wisconsin potato industry.
University scientists and inspectors with the Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Program will continue to utilize their expertise in plant pathogens, disease management and diagnostics to perform the early steps in the seed potato production process and to oversee overall testing and certification for the program.
Strengths of partners
“This new public-private partnership capitalizes on the strengths of both partners,” says Amanda Gevens, professor and extension specialist in the plant pathology department and the current administrative director of the certification program.
As outlined in the Wisconsin Administrative Code, the cooperative certification program between the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection and the University of Wisconsin requires the university to certify seed potatoes based on their cleanliness and varietal type.
Scientists in the Department of Plant Pathology at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences oversee the program and ensure an adequate supply of high-quality seed potatoes for Wisconsin’s $350 million potato industry.
“Our coalition is excited to provide this service for the Wisconsin industry,” says Kevin Schleicher, director of WPC and director of sales for Wysocki Family of Companies. “Local potato farms are strongly positioned in the national potato industry when we have a clean, quality source for early generation seed in Wisconsin.”
The WPC will contract with seed potato customers each winter to determine the quantity and varieties of seed potatoes to cultivate at the Lelah Starks Farm. The coalition will then plant, raise, harvest, and store the certified seed potatoes.
Scientists and the coalition members will continue to partner on research at the farm, and the university will continue to manage the onsite greenhouses, including production of mini tubers.
The 1,000-acre Lelah Starks Farm includes roughly 400 tillable acres surrounding a 40-acre spring-fed lake. It is a good location for seed potato production due to the presence of fertile sandy loam soil, isolation from adjacent potato farms, and the area’s harsh winter temperatures, which kill many plant pathogens.
Approximately 100 acres of potatoes are grown in rotation each year.
This story was originally published in the Badger Common’Tater