State of Oregon and partners to receive $50 million grant to develop ‘climate-smart’ potatoes – Potato News Today

Oregon State University has received a $50 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with farmers and Native American tribes on cropping techniques that can improve soil health and reduce the carbon footprint of the Pacific Northwest potato industry.

Oregon State University is partnering with Idaho State University and Washington State University, tribal nations, commodity groups and potato processors on a five-year project funded by USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Program.

It is one of 70 projects totaling up to $2.8 billion funded by the USDA to support America’s farmers, ranchers and forest owners and to strengthen America’s rural and agricultural communities by creating markets for what the USDA calls climate-smart goods, which means implementing environmentally friendly and climate-resilient practices in food and agriculture.

“Oregon State University is honored to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help the potato industry, Indian tribes and other crop producers of all sizes and types become part of the national climate solution,” said Jeffrey Steinerproject manager and associate director of OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center.

More than 62% of US potatoes are grown in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, with an economic value of $2.2 billion annually. according to USDA statistics. Nearly 500,000 acres of potatoes are grown in the tri-state region.

Potato production typically uses methods that greatly disturb the soil, especially during harvest, so organic matter does not accumulate and greenhouse gases are lost to the atmosphere, project leaders said. This project is designed to help farmers who want to use soil health practices that lead to climate-smart outcomes.

Climate-smart practices and crop rotation

Oregon State and its collaborators from universities and the Soil Health Institute, a nonprofit organization based in North Carolina, will focus on how climate-smart practices and crop rotations grown with potatoes (those crops that are produced for three years between potato-producing years) , can offset the effects of soil-disturbing practices.

The crop rotation includes cereals, alfalfa, corn, hemp, and onions. Climate-smart practices include reduced tillage, use of cover crops and mulching of residues.

Researchers believe that using appropriate combinations of these techniques can significantly increase soil organic matter, reduce soil nutrient loss, and improve soil water-holding capacity—improvements that improve soil health, conserve water, and lead to climate-smart outcomes.

The project team will evaluate how potatoes and crop rotation are currently grown on conventional and organic farms and on Native American lands. By studying what is currently being done and measuring soil conditions in the fields at the start of the project, the team will work with farmers and tribal leaders to determine soil health building techniques and rotation options that work for their farms and land conditions.

The effects of the changes will be monitored by measuring soil data. The data will be used in models to test the effectiveness of the approaches. Participating farmers and Indian tribes will receive incentive payments to offset the upfront costs of adopting climate-smart practices and reduce the risks of early adoption costs.

“We want to create incentives for potato growers and other farmers to find climate-smart practices that make sense for them and their farm conditions,” Steiner said.

The project will also help develop ways of marketing and promoting climate-smart potatoes and other crops. Some of the producers are considering selling branded consumer goods that could provide a climate-smart premium for participating farmers and processors.


Collaborating on the project with OSU, University of Idaho and Washington State researchers and extension professionals are: Soil Health Institute, LoCo+, 7 Generations LLC, Industrial Hemp Association of Washington, Yakima Nation: Confederated Tribes and Bands, Nez Perce Tribe, Lamb Weston, Frito -Lay, Threemile Canyon Farms, Mart Produce, Simplot, Marc Staunton, Scotty Fenters, GMP Orchards LLC, Selkirk Ag LLC and Triangle Ranch.

Source: Oregon State University (OSU)
photo: OSU loan
Sean Neilan, 541-737-0787,
Jeff Steiner, 541-737-9119, State of Oregon and partners to receive $50 million grant to develop ‘climate-smart’ potatoes – Potato News Today

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