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Michigan potato industry will study storage issues
Michigan Correspondent

ENTRICAN, Mich. — A $100,000 Agricultural Innovation grant recently awarded to the Michigan Potato Industry Commission (MPIC) will help the organization build a demonstration storage for post harvest treatment of potatoes.

Brian Sackett, a member of the MPIC board of directors and a potato grower from Mecosta, said the grant will help fund the $450,000 building, which will be used to conduct research on potato rot and help identify new sprout inhibitors.

“There’s a lot of potatoes in storage, and there’s a lot of money lost each year due to storage spoilage and rot,” Sackett said.

Sackett said that sprout inhibitors currently being used “may be discontinued. It’s important to find new ones.”

The new post harvest demonstration storage will focus on all aspects of storage. With about 70 percent of Michigan’s potato crop being stored for a short time to a maximum of about nine months, storage is critical to potato growers.

The facility, Sackett said, will help researchers find the most efficient and reliable storage conditions and treatments to cover all production situations.

The storage will be built next to another research storage where the potato commission and the university conducts variety development work.

“We take new varieties and do storage tests on those,” Sackett said. “We see how they’re going to grow and how sugars are effected by storage.”

The new demonstration storage facility will include six climate-controlled bins. Each bin will hold a semi load of potatoes. Sackett said the potatoes would be tested in actual storage conditions. “It helps give growers some confidence in how the potatoes are going to perform,” he said.

The Michigan potato industry includes about 100 growers with a farm gate value of about $106 million. Montcalm County has about 20,000 acres of potatoes valued at about $45 million, making it the largest potato-producing county in the state.

The $100,000 grant awarded to the MPIC is part of the Julian-Stille value-added grant program administered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. More than $4.7 million in grants were awarded to 40 applicants in 27 counties. A total of 225 grant proposals with requests totaling more than $36 million were received.

“Michigan’s robust agricultural industry is a critical part of our economy,” said Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D). “These projects reflect the entrepreneurial spirit and sound investment we need to create jobs and diversify our economy.”

MDA Director Mitch Irwin said the program was designed to establish, retain, expand, attract or develop value-added agricultural production operations throughout the state.

“The proposals we received reflected the diversity of Michigan agriculture,” Irwin said. “From shrimp in Okemos to meat processing in Escanaba, innovation is the key to growing our state’s $60.1 billion agriculture industry.”

Applicants were required to provide a cash match of at least 10 percent.

This farm news was published in the Nov. 8, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.