Multi-Million-Dollar Potato & Vegetable Storage Research Facility Celebrated

Antigo, WI —  On September 26, 2011, representatives from the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) ceremoniously “handed over the keys” of the Potato and Vegetable Storage Research Facility (SRF) to the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW). The ceremony gave the WPVGA a chance to recognize and thank everyone that was instrumental in making the vision of the SRF into a reality. The SRF is a great example of how Wisconsin growers continue to work with industry partners to invest in the future of agriculture.

The SRF was conceived, designed and built by Wisconsin potato growers to provide growers and UW researchers with a state-of-the-art facility in which to study the relationship between field management and storage practices of fresh produce. “Our growers work with UW researchers throughout the year — from seeding to harvesting — to produce high quality produce with minimal effect on the environment,” notes Duane Maatz, Executive Director of the WPVGA. “This facility allows them not only to improve storage methods, but to see how their growing practices affect sugar content, storage and handling issues after harvesting. It allows them to connect all the dots between seeding, growing, storing and delivering potatoes,” Maatz adds.

Initiated in May 2006, funding for the multi-million dollar facility was secured by the WPVGA with the assistance of five Wisconsin potato growers, including Greg Wysocki of Wysocki Produce Farms; Dennis Zeloski, of Muck Farms, Inc.; TJ Kennedy, of Heartland Farms, Inc.; Steve Diercks, of Coloma Farms, Inc.; and Tom Wild, of Wild Seed Farms, Inc. The facility is located at the Hancock Agriculture Research Station and focuses on four areas of research:

  • Improving quality of seed potatoes
  • Improving quality and consistency of potatoes grown, stored, marketed and processed in Wisconsin
  • Reducing losses of stored potatoes
  • Implementing a longer storage season

“Wisconsin has a unique growing environment and shorter growing season,” adds Maatz. “This facility allows us to perform localized research that specifically addresses the challenges, and identifies the opportunities, our environment presents. And the facility can, and has, been used to conduct research concerning other fresh produce including carrots, onions, beets, cabbage, squash and pumpkins. Ultimately, this research will help bring quality fresh Wisconsin produce to consumers year round.”

Notes Mary LeMere, Interim Superintendent – Storage Research Manager, Hancock Agricultural Research Station, “Research conducted at this facility is applicable to everyday commercial potato storage management as a result of the cooperation and engagement of our local growers and processors with University of Wisconsin-Madison research programs. This partnership provides the potential for truly innovative research that directly impacts the potato industry from seed development to creating a finished marketable product.”

Highlights of the facility are as follows:

  • The facility houses nine 2,000 cwt (2 million pounds) bulk bins for large-scale research and nine storage lockers for smaller trials. Each unit is independently controlled to prevent cross-contamination. Each has its own air exchange, humidification and refrigeration systems that can be controlled remotely via Internet access.
  • The efforts of 10 academic groups resulted in research conducted on over 18 million pounds of potatoes last year.
  • Storage sugar analysis and fry testing services are available through the Processing and Quality Assurance Laboratories.
  • A few of the topics investigated at the facility include stem end defects, influence of vine kill timing on storage, evaluations of advanced and elite breeding lines, pressure bruise and shrink in storage, sprout inhibitor trials, ethylene impact on stem end defects and sprouting, PVY development in storage, fungicide efficacy, ozone in bulk piles and insect stresses on storage quality.
  • A group of potato growers, industry representatives, and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers serve as the Storage Research Advisory Committee and provide guidance for facility operations and research priorities.

The ceremony is part of the Spud, Berry and Dairy Tour and begins with a tour of the facility at 11 a.m. Among the attendees will be Wisconsin growers, UW researchers, Duane Maatz, Executive Director of the WPVGA, and other special guests important to Wisconsin agriculture.

About Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA)

Established in 1948, the WPVGA is headquartered in Antigo, Wisconsin. WPVGA provides grower education, government support, environmentally sound research and consumer education for 150 grower organizations across the state. WPVGA is responsible for expanding the Wisconsin potato markets through advertising, promotion and research. WPVGA also supports the Wisconsin Healthy Grown® initiative — reduced crop protection inputs, integrated pest management, sustainable farming practices overseen by Protected Harvest, an independent oversight organization. www.wisconsinpotatoes.com.

Source: Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association

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