Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association

Research Project – Call for Participants

Richard Lankau, Department of Plant Pathology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with collaborators at the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University, are launching a new research project on soil biology and soil-borne disease prediction in potato fields. As part of the research, he is looking for interested growers who would be willing to send soil and tuber samples from their fields.

Below is a description of the project, including what they need and what they can provide to participating growers.

Are you interested in engaging in participatory research on soil microbial diversity and disease suppression in midwestern potato production fields?
We are launching a newly-funded USDA Speciality Crop Multi-State Grant Program across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (Suppressing diseases and optimizing yield in potato production via microbiome-based prediction and management).  The overarching goal of this project is to develop soil microbiome-based predictive models for potato diseases, yield, and biological control that provide a platform for management decision-making (use of fumigation, biological control, and/or resistant cultivars).  To establish the baseline information needed to develop microbiome-based predictive models, we seek first to characterize variation in pre-plant densities of potato pathogens in relation to:  i) soil chemical characteristics; ii) pre-plant and late-season soil, root, and endophytic microbiomes; and iii) potato disease and yield among fumigated and non-fumigated potato production fields across the midwestern growing region.  WE ARE ASKING FOR HELP FROM OUR GROWER COMMUNITIES.

What we are asking of volunteer participants:  Sample your soil in fall, 2018; photograph your potato plants in summer, 2019; provide potato and soil samples at harvest in summer, 2019. 

What we will do with the soil and plant samples: We will characterize the bacterial and fungal soil microbiomes in every soil sample, and soil chemical characteristics will be determined for a composite sample from each field.  Disease assessments will be determined for every plant sample, and endophytic bacteria and fungi (microbes growing inside the potato plant, and often exhibiting growth enhancing potential) will be isolated from stem and leaf tissues.  By combining these diverse data from over 100 farms in MN, MI, and WI, we will establish a foundation for understanding the characteristics of soil and endophytic microbiomes most important to supporting healthy and high-yielding potato plants.

What we will provide to you:  Growers will receive a complete summary of the soil microbiome composition and diversity on your farm, information on the abundance of known beneficial and pathogenic microbes in your soil, and soil nutrient chemistry.  In addition, you will receive a composite overview (with no identifying factors) of the variation in soil microbiomes across farms in the upper midwest, and the relationships between soil microbiome diversity, composition, potato diseases, and yields.  This will allow you to compare your fields to other potato production fields in the upper Midwest.  Finally, participation offers an opportunity for you to contribute to development of pre-plant decision-making tools to optimize potato health and yields for the upper Midwest.

For further information contact:
Richard Lankau
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Plant Pathology
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Phone: 608-262-3084, email: lankau@wisc.edu

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITY: We are also asking for volunteers willing to participate in on-farm trials of microbial inoculants that have been shown to enhance potato health and yields. Contact lankau@wisc.edu for more details.   

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