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Eye on Potatoes: Agronomist urges caution when considering unproven products, technologies

University of Idaho agronomist Dr. Bryan Hopkins urges


March 27, 2008
By Myron Love

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University of Idaho agronomist Dr.
Bryan Hopkins urges growers to be cautious when considering applying
new and unproven products and/or technologies.

University of Idaho agronomist Dr. Bryan Hopkins urges growers to be cautious when considering applying new and unproven products and/or technologies.

“It’s a bad idea to base decisions on new products (after) one trial on a single strip,” he says. “You need to be able to factor out natural variability. Products need to be tested over several seasons. And you need to look at the statistics.”

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A new product might work one time out of 10, he notes. “That would be an anomaly – and it’s foolish to make changes based on an anomaly.”

As an example, he describes an Idaho potato grower who switched to a new pesticide after testing it on one field over one season. The problem was the grower used the product during a low disease season. The next year, the product failed spectacularly and the farmer was forced to sell the farm.

Of course, not all “snake oils,” as Dr. Hopkins refers to new products promising the world, are bunk. Some do work. Dr. Hopkins says he is currently experimenting with a new fertilization product on his own farm that seems to be working. There is also a new fungicide being used in Idaho that seems to be effective in reducing pink rot, he adds.

IrrigAid, an agricultural soil penetrant used to help improve the infiltration and penetration of irrigation water plus soil-applied fertilizers, pesticides and soil amendments, also seems to work well, Dr. Hopkins reports. The soil in Idaho, he explains, is either sandy or sandy loam and is known to hold water. IrrigAid was tried at immersion and just before row closure with the latter timing working best.

“You should put on a gallon per acre,” he advises, adding, “IrrigAid worked for us, but it should be tested under (local) conditions before being adopted.”