UW Madison: Helping the potato industry
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Potatoes are heaped high in the storage building at the UW-Madison Hancock Agricultural Research Station, situated in the middle of the Central Sands area of Wisconsin, one of the most productive potato-growing regions in the country.
Hancock has stored these potato samples to see how well they will last in storage, and equipment operator Sam Perez keeps a close eye on the stored spuds.
By monitoring sugar levels, frying test batches of potato chips, and other techniques, Perez and other station employees help growers decide when to market their stored potatoes. Waiting longer usually means a higher price, but only if the potatoes are sound and un-sprouted.
Storage is a big concern for Paul Bethke and other UW-Madison horticulturists who breed and grow potatoes at the station.
"One goal of the breeding and storage programs is to have families eating Wisconsin potatoes at the July fourth barbecue," says Amber Gotch, who works alongside Perez in the lab. "That requires 10 months of safe storage, and we are getting close."
Wisconsin is ranked in the top five nationally in production of potatoes, sweet corn, green beans, peas, carrots and many other processed vegetables.
The Hancock station, located along Interstate 39 between Stevens Point and Wausau, plays a central role in Wisconsin-oriented potato research. In 2006, the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association raised $3.2 million for the storage building where Perez spends half his year.
When fieldwork begins, Perez moves outside as one of the site's field technicians where he also performs preventive maintenance and repair on the station's farm equipment and vehicles.
During four years at Hancock Agricultural Research Station, Sam Perez has earned a reputation as methodical, agreeable and willing to handle any task. Those reasons made him one of eight University of Wisconsin-Madison employees to receive the 2017 University Staff Recognition Award.
READ MORE, SEE VIDEO: https://news.wisc.edu/curator-at-ag-station-helps-growers-keep-close-watch-on-potato-health/