National Potato Council Awards $10,000 Grant to Grad Student

NPC award


In Washington,DC, the grower leaders of the National Potato Council (NPC) take a long-term view when they decide how to influence the legislative and regulatory process in favor ofAmerica’s potato growers.

NPC also takes a long-term view when we consider how to help develop the people who will lead our industry into the future. That’s why we are proud to invest in graduate-level students who have the talents to advance the potato industry through cutting-edge breeding and disease research.

Award For Achievement
Each year, NPC awards one $10,000 scholarship to a graduate student pursuing advanced studies that will improve the future of the potato industry.

Final scholarship selection is based on academic achievement, leadership abilities, and the potential commercial value of the applicant’s academic work. Recently, NPC announced that Rhett Spear, a horticulture Ph.D. graduate student at Washington State University (WSU), is its 2013-14 Academic Scholarship recipient.

Spear’s research is focused on identifying new, viable fresh-pack varieties as alternatives to the Russet Norkotah, an important fresh-pack variety that is susceptible to Potato Virus Y (PVY). In 2011, he initiated a three-year fresh-pack variety trial, which is evaluating the economic value, bruise resistance, storability, and overall consumer preference of 12 varieties. Spear has also initiated reduced-input trials in an effort to identify new varieties that use fewer resources than traditional processing and fresh-pack varieties.

He estimates that one variety he has helped develop to replace the Russet Norkotah would yield an additional $37 million in production value toU.S.growers and bring consumers better flavor, texture, and flesh color. Recognizing that the viability of this particular variety is uncertain, Spear believes his career prospects are not.

In his application, Spear wrote, “I have gained valuable experience through this research and, as a result, will be able to assistU.S.growers in maintaining global competiveness and profitability in my future endeavors.”

His professors also recognize his talents. Mark Pavek, associate professor and research Extension horticulturist at WSU, noted that, “The projects Rhett has implemented could favorably alter the cultural practices and variety selections ofU.S.potato growers. I have no doubt that Rhett will be in high demand when he leaves my program.”

Spear is already focused on the bigger picture. In addition to his coursework, he is the financial chair of the WSU Horticulture club, a member of the Potato Association of America, and the chair-elect of the Tri-State portion of the Pacific Northwest Potato Variety Development Program. A graduate ofUtahStateUniversity, he lives inPullman,WA, with his wife Aria. The couple has two daughters, Jenae and Brooke, and their third daughter is on the way.

NPC would like to thank all those who generously support its scholarship fund through its fundraisers. By helping graduate students like Spear afford their tuition, NPC is putting a down payment on tomorrow’s industry leaders.