News September 2019

University of Idaho researchers analyze quality problems in recent Idaho potato shipments

Weather conditions at harvest largely drove the prevalence of defects and the types of quality problems that retailers encountered with Idaho’s 2017 and 2018 fresh potato crops, new University of Idaho research suggests.

John O’Connell of Farm and Ranch reports that, concerned by increasing customer complaints about tuber defects, the Idaho Potato Commission funded an ongoing quality study starting in 2017, involving UI potato researchers Nora Olsen and Mike Thornton. 

The researchers have collaborated with Walmart, U.S. Foods, growers and shippers to determine the steps in the supply chain in which tubers are sustaining the most damage, and why. 

After evaluating customer complaints, load rejections, weather data and results of tests they’ve conducted, they’ve reached a central conclusion: The two main conditions that cause problems in the handling of potatoes are really hot or really cold weather at harvest.

“Mike and Nora have done some astounding work in this area in sharing it with our industry, and we’ve done great things in our industry on improving our quality,” IPC President and CEO Frank Muir said . “U.S. Foods joined our efforts, and they are the second largest food distributor. When they want to work with us rather than turn away from us, it’s a real positive message.”

Read the full report in Farm and Ranch here