[deck]Potatoes inspire millions of dollars of investment in research and infrastructure in southern Alberta.[/deck]
Lab-based research gets underway Jan. 16 at the University of Lethbridge for the school’s new research chair in potato science.
Dmytro Yevtushenko is a plant biologist who has studied potatoes for more than 25 years. He took up the new research chair position last January.
“It’s a pleasure to work with potatoes. There’s so much information out there about potatoes,” said Yevtushenko.
His first year was spent crafting new courses that will train the university’s students in aspects of potato science. The hope from industry stakeholders is that it will entice new people into the business.
“We have a shortage of people in the agriculture industry. And our task, our purpose, is to prepare employees, new scientists,” said Yevtushenko.
The research chair and his program are funded by Cavendish, the Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA), along with other industry leaders such as McCain Foods and Lamb Weston.
“[The program] will develop specific potato professionals,” said Lee Gleim, the director of operations for Cavendish Farms in Lethbridge.
Gleim said the hope is that this research program will help move western potato research up to a level that parallels what is already seen in other parts of the country.
“A lot of the potato research done in Canada today is done on the eastern side of Canada. We wanted something specific to southern Alberta. And being involved in his project has allowed us to do that. It’s going to give us specific potato research based on the local geographical region,” Gleim said.
Yevtushenko has his first graduate student starting work Jan. 16 and they will be studying the physiological age of seed potatoes. The benefit being that if they can more accurately hone the aging of seed potatoes, they can be more efficiently grown because crops will sprout and germinate at the same time.
The team will also be looking at various potato diseases.
Yevtushenko estimates that he will have roughly a dozen research assistants working under him by the time the project is at full capacity.