UNL Extension Specialist New President of National Potato Group

UNL Extension Specialist New President of National Potato Group

September 14, 2007

The Extension potato specialist and plant physiologist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center will lead an international potato industry professional society during the coming year.

Dr. Alexander Pavlista of Scottsbluff was elected president of the Potato Association of America in August, during the organization's annual meeting at Idaho Falls, ID. The association has more than 700 members, including scientists in university, government and industry; government regulators; large growers; and potato processors. Pavlista has been with UNL since 1988, based at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff. He received his Ph.D. in plant physiology from the City University of New York. Prior to coming to UNL, he worked as a research biologist for American Cyanamid Co.

Both the international association and the potato industry will be faced with several important issues in the coming year, Pavlista said. For the PAA, the key long-range decision will be changing the publisher of its journal from the University of Maine to Springer Publishing. The association also will consider new, standardized guidelines for hosting major meetings, and will roll out a new web site with its own internet domain name, and a new, user-friendly design intended to appeal more to the general public.

For the U.S. potato industry, a major challenge is reacting to several diseases discovered in recent years whose cause has yet to be identified, primarily zebra chip. This disease, named for the characteristic symptoms that develop in potato tubers from infected plants, was first identified in the United States in 2000. It has spread to Nebraska and several other states.

In Nebraska, challenges include drought and limited irrigation in the west and flooding in the south and east. The industry also is constantly dealing with diseases, including early blight and late blight, Pavlista said. The latter caused the Irish potato famine.

Pavlista said Nebraska produces about 20,000 acres of potatoes, harvested in the fall, ranking the state 10th to 12th in the nation in fall production.