Can french fries save the planet? A $50 million grant aims to make potatoes highly sustainable


Can french fries play a role in saving the planet? Although potatoes are already considered one of the more sustainable food crops — especially compared to animal farming — researchers are working on additional ways to help improve soil health and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. A $50 million grant was recently awarded to Oregon State University (OSU) to work with potato growers to advance the sustainability of the Pacific Northwest potato industry.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, potatoes produce nutritious food faster, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major food crop, allowing them to play an important role in enhancing world food security, especially in development. Countries. In fact, potatoes produce more food energy per cubic meter of water used than any other major crop, and they use less space per kilogram of production than most other foods.

With the new grant from the USDA, OSU is collaborating with Idaho State University and Washington State University, Native American tribes, commodity groups, and potato processing companies on a five-year project for more sustainable and climate-resilient implementation. Potato cultivation practices.


Marcus Spaceki

In the United States, more than 62 percent of the country’s potatoes are grown in the states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and the industry is worth $2.2 billion annually, according to USDA statistics. Approximately 500,000 acres of potatoes are grown in the Three States region.

“Oregon State University is privileged to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help the potato industry, Native American tribes, and other crop producers of all sizes and species to be part of a national solution to climate challenges,” said Jeffrey Steiner, project leader and director of the University’s Center for Global Innovation. Ohio State in a statement.

Make potatoes more sustainable

Although the potato is considered an economical source of food, project leaders note that improvements can be made when considering their carbon footprint. Potato production typically uses practices that disturb the soil severely, especially when harvesting, so organic matter does not accumulate and greenhouse gases are lost to the atmosphere. The OSU project is designed to help farmers who want to use soil health building practices that lead to more sustainable results.

The project team will begin by evaluating how potatoes and rotating crops are currently grown on conventional, organic, and Native American farms. By studying what is currently being done and measuring soil conditions in the fields at the start of the project, the team will then work with farmers to identify improvements to the farming practice operating on their farms and their land conditions.

Vegetables, french fries, jai jajjar

Jay Jaggar

The university’s project collaborators, along with the nonprofit Soil Health Institute, will focus on how climate-smart practices and potato-growing rotations can offset the effects of disturbing soil practices. Alternating crops are the crops that can be produced in the three years between the years of production of the potato crop. Options include grains, alfalfa, corn, hemp, and onions. Climate-smart practices include reduced sowing tillage, use of cover crops, and mulching residues.

The researchers believe that using appropriate combinations of these technologies can significantly increase soil organic matter, reduce soil nutrient loss, and improve soil water-holding capacity—improvements that increase soil health, save water, and lead to more sustainable results.

Benefit from resilient vegetable crops

Experts around the world have long asserted that reducing meat consumption is essential for the planet, and in recent years more emphasis is being placed on improving the climate resilience of vegetable crops. Some organizations and companies go so far as to exploit forgotten vegetable crops such as the Bambara groundnut – a renewable, hardy, drought-tolerant legume that can grow on degraded lands with minimal demand for resources.

Singapore-based startup WhatIF Foods makes vegan noodles and milk using Bambara peanuts and is working with farmers in Africa in hopes of creating an international market for the crop in a bid to boost food security.

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WhatIF . foods

In Africa, bambara fulsol is already recognized as an important and nutrient-rich food source when food is scarce because it thrives in poor soils where other crops are no longer able to grow. It also has the ability to capture atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into nitrogen compounds in the soil, making it an ideal cover crop and suitable for extensive crop rotation. Additionally, legumes have an impressive nutritional profile that includes large amounts of plant protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals.

“During [regenerative farming practices]Chris Langollner, founder and CEO of WhatIF Foods, told VegNews that WhatIF will remove all of its lifetime carbon emissions from the atmosphere. “And precious step by step, it will restore life to those degraded lands and the communities that cultivate them.”

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