US scientists research the effects of smoke from wildfires on potatoes

As increasingly high summer temperatures make fire seasons longer and more intense, a team of scientists is looking at Idaho to see what might happen to potato yields.

It was in 2012 that Dr. Addie Waxman, who holds a PhD in potato science, started to notice a problem in the potato fields in Washington state. Walking through areas affected by the smoke from wildfires, she noticed that some of the potato plants looked as if they were shriveling earlier than expected.

A decade later, Dr. Waxman, now the manager of agronomy for McCain Foods, is watching carefully as a group of scientists work to answer that question in Idaho. The research group is midway through a two-year study designed to tease out how smoke affects everything from the size of a potato tuber to its chemical composition, from its durability in storage to the color of the French fries it yields.

The results could have important implications for the vast agricultural industry in the western parts of the continent.


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