February 2021

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22 Spudman.com Improving soil health, sustainability through fumigation I mproving sustainable potato production is an admirable goal for the potato industry. The basic concept of sustainable crop production is to produce an economically viable crop while maintaining or improving soil health and reducing the potential environmental impacts of farming. As growers have long known, there is a link between the economic and environmental sustainability of a farm. Farmers have long been stewards of the land balancing the health of farm business with the health of the land. To improve environmental sustainability in the potato industry, it has to be linked to improved economic sustainability of the family farm. A simplified way to imagine the link between the economic and environmental components of sustainable potato production is to envision what happens when marketable yield per acre increases. If marketable yields increased by 25% and stayed consistently at that level, current potato production volume both on individual farms and across the industry could be produced on less land. The cost to produce each pound of potatoes would be lower because per-acre input costs would be spread over a larger marketable yield. Because less land would need to be farmed for the same level of production, farm- wide input costs would be lowered as well. A consistent yield increase would improve the economic sustainability of the farm. In addition, industry-wide environmental sustainability would improve simply because of a smaller over-all production footprint. Producing more potatoes per unit of area seems to be a reasonable way to improve long-term sustainability of potato production. Many parts of the potato industry are focused on doing just that. By Chad Hutchinson GUEST COLUMNIST Relatively new chloropicrin-based fumigant helps suppress disease, restore soil

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