Wisconsin spuds more eco-friendly

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MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin Potato Growers, World Wildlife Fund and University of Wisconsin researchers are celebrating a decade of collaboration, innovation and progress.
The result of their collaboration is a new way of growing potatoes: Wisconsin Healthy Grown Potatoes.
How it began. “It began when I was asked to speak on a panel about our farming practices,” said Nick Somers, a Healthy Grown potato grower from Stevens Point, Wis.
“I spoke about how we keep records and track what we put on all our crops; only using what’s necessary to produce a healthy crop and protect the land.”
What Somers didn’t realize was that the panel also included one of the largest environmental organizations in the world, World Wildlife Fund.
“We were on the panel to speak about how World Wildlife Fund wanted to accelerate adoption of environmentally friendly farming practices in order to protect our environment,” said Sarah Lynch from the Center for Conservation Innovation, World Wildlife Fund.
“We discovered Wisconsin Potato Growers were already taking important measures to lessen their impact on the environment – we had common goals and needed to work together.”
Standards and progress. It was from that chance meeting in early 1997 that the three organizations set out to develop strict, transparent, verifiable standards that would lead to a new way of farming.
“The grower’s have made significant progress over the past decade,” added Deana Knuteson, PhD. and BioIPM coordinator on the collaboration.
“Not only have they been instrumental in executing integrated pest management practices, to quantifiably reduce the impact their practices have on the land, but for 2006, they have helped develop and implement an eco-system restoration component to protect Wisconsin’s native landscapes, such as prairie lands, and rare species like the Karner Blue Butterfly.”
Results. Since the beginning of the collaboration in 1997, the entire Wisconsin potato industry has made progress toward increasing integrated pest management practices and reducing crop inputs to protect the environment.
In 2005, 4,000 acres were certified as “Wisconsin Healthy Grown Potatoes,” according to Protected Harvest, the group’s third party certification organization.

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