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Treating soil like the living organism it is would benefit potato yields, experts say

Potato farmers and potato industry professionals at the 2017 Maine Potato Conference in Caribou.When Eric Giberson was growing up on a potato farm in central Aroostook County in the 1970s, “you grew potatoes in the ground,” he said. “I didn’t grow up thinking that soil was a living organism — it is,” said Giberson, a conservationist with the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service in Fort Kent, at the 32nd annual Maine Potato Conference. The conference, held at the Caribou Inn and Convention Center Jan. 18-19, kicked off with a series of presentations on soil health, something potato farmers are paying more attention to in an effort to improve yields, reduce disease problems and prevent erosion. “Soil health is the key for sustained economic yields. These are not a new concepts. We’ve been talking about them for hundreds of years,” Giberson said. “The challenge is building soil quality in a potato system that’s relying on intensive tillage, and it’s very intensive tillage.” More