Welcome to the Potato Soil Health Project

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The Potato Soil Health Project was established to address two related issues with soil health in potato cropping systems across the U.S.:  (1) despite the frequent use of fumigation in most farms, pressure from soil-borne diseases is increasing over time, and (2) at the same time, soil productivity is declining.  Our overall objectives are to determine how best to measure soil health in potato cropping systems, identify the tools (cover crops, soil amendments, rotation schemes) that best enhance both soil health and tuber production, and communicate our findings to potato growers.

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June 21, 2021

Zoom meeting for project researchers.  This year, all Objective 1 study plots have been planted with rotation crops.  We decided to remove the planned aggregate stability test from the summer/fall 2020 soil samples and sample for pathogens in both summer/fall 2020 (before fumigants or biofumigants are applied) and spring 2021 (before spring fertilizer applications).  Marian Bolton will be leaving the research team at the end of the week to pursue and entrepreneurial career.  Good luck, Marian!  Research on Objective 2 is also going according to plan, with more teams able to participate than last year.  All participating researchers took spring soil samples, and all had either taken the 60-days-after-planting samples or were planning to soon.  We have hired a new post-doc, Touqeer Abbas, to work with the collective Objective 2 data.  Welcome to the project, Abbas!  The Objective 3 team is hoping that the waning of the pandemic will allow them to conduct grower surveys at live meetings this year.  For Objective 4, 11 factsheets are up on the website, with two more in the works.  Work on the soil health manuals will begin soon.  We also hope to conduct a second webinar this fall or winter.  We are preparing the annual progress report to USDA-NIFA.

March 10, 2021

We held our spring Advisory Committee meeting on March 4.  The project is progressing at a good pace, despite the pandemic and the loss of one of our project directors (to a new job) last May.  A new postdoc hire has been selected to take up leadership of Objective 2.  Preliminary microbiome analyses have begun, and project researchers are conducting monthly meetings for training and coordination on this aspect of the project.  Research on nematode communities and soil health is being conducted by researchers in Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon, and Idaho, building off of the Potato Soil Health Project platform.  Two more soil health factsheets have been released, with five more planned for this year.  Work on one or more soil health manuals is slated to begin later this year.  Our February 16 webinar, released through Spudman, was a success, with 128 live attendees and 30 additional views after the event.

December 28, 2020.

The SCRI Potato Soil Health Project is now hiring a Post-Doctoral Associate.  The successful candidate will lead the effort on GIS-based analyses of the relationships among soil microbiomes, soil chemistry, and potato health and productivity as part of dynamic team of researchers spanning multiple disciplines, working closely with faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral scientists from across the country.  See the position description here.

December 14, 2020.

Zoom meeting for project researchers.  The results of an internal researcher survey were presented.  Respondents had positive things to say about project coordination and progress.  More clarity is desired on data usage, analysis, and overarching hypotheses.  Most researchers want assistance with microbiome data.  We are setting up a Slack workspace to help researchers connect.  Objective 1 microbiome data for 2019 are out, and Objective 2 should be out soon.  We expect the 2020 data to be out by spring.  A grower survey went out through Spudman, and the response has been good.  We have released six soil health factsheets to date, with more on the horizon.  These are the first kernels of our soil health manual(s).  We will be presenting our first webinar in late winter 2021 through Spudman.  We are presenting a poster at Potato Expo 2021.  See “Presentations” on the Education tab of this website.

October 8, 2020.

Zoom meeting for project researchers.  Objective 3 researchers will share their grower survey through Spudman in the first week of November.  A crop budget pilot project produced flawed results because yield assumptions were based on small-plot studies, not grower yields.  This will be corrected.  All researchers have completed tuber harvests for Objective 1 and have either finished grading them or expect to within the week.  Project data is on Box Secure Storage, and Objective 1 microbiome data from 2019 will be available in each team’s Box folder in early November.  Objective 2 microbiome data is expected in early December.  Three soil health factsheets have been published so far, with three more in the works and four topics in queue.  Planning is underway for webinars, hopefully in mid-January.  We are planning to present a poster at the next Potato Expo:  “What is soil health in a potato cropping system?  Update from the SCRI Potato Soil Health Project.”  We will meet again in December.