News has been released regarding preliminary data in a study involving Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Chair, Dr. Owen McDougal.
Boise State University and the University of Idaho are conducting a joint study called “Impact of Smoke on Potato Growth, Storage and Profitability.” The two-year study, funded by a $125,000 grant from the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, seeks to understand the impact of wildfire smoke on crop yield and quality, and potato size and chemical composition of different varieties of potatoes commonly grown by Idaho farmers. Along with University of Idaho’s Department of Plant Sciences professor Mike Thornton, Dr. McDougal is hoping this research will lead to the identification of more resilient varieties of Idaho’s state vegetable.
Thornton and his research team at the UI Parma Research and Extension Center planted three varieties of potatoes and simulated the effects of wildfire by covering the plots with plastic and piping in smoke from a blend of hard and soft woods. McDougal’s team in the Food and Dairy Innovation Center laboratory here at Boise State analyzed the harvested potatoes, and frozen fries made from them at the U of I Food Technology Center in Caldwell, immediately after harvest, and will again after six months of storage.
Preliminary data gathered by McDougal and the FDIC suggests that potato plants exposed to extreme smoke produced lower yields and more misshapen tubers than smoke-free plants.