Now in the third year of his research project, Andrew Hollingshead, a Ph.D. student will continue bruising, battering and dissecting tubers throughout the winter. But these unusual experiments are nothing new at the University of Idaho’s Kimberly Research & Extension Center. The center has been researching potatoes since the early ‘90s.
“We will tailor our research based on what are the industry issues,” said Nora Olsen, a professor and potato specialist at the center. Hollingshead’s research project is focused around Pythium leak, a disease caused by a fungus-like pathogen that lives in soil. Potatoes get infected with it when they have an open wound or bruise.
“We will abuse our potatoes and make them get infected with it,” Olsen said. So as part of his experiment, Hollingshead has been tumbling potatoes around in a cement mixer for 90 seconds.
“They’re bumping, they’re grinding, they’re getting beat up along the way,” Hollingshead said. “It provides this nice opening so that the inoculum can infect the tuber.”
Through his research, he’s looking for ways to prevent Pythium leak, such as using different varieties of potatoes or changing the storage temperatures.