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MSU Potato Events, Exhibits and Outreach

MSU Potato Breeding and Genetics


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“Spuds Unearthed”
Exhibit ran from May 8th through October 11, 2010
at the United States Botanic Garden.


The United States Botanic Garden is located just steps from the Capitol Building.
 Photo credit:  United States Botanic Garden.

The United States Botanic Garden’s East Garden featured an exhibition on Potatoes.  The MSU Potato Breeding and Genetics Team contributed to this event in many ways.  It was called “Spud’s Unearthed” and provided visitors an interesting tour of the 7,000 year history of the potato as well as delving into potato science and research. The origins of this exhibit started with our SolCAP’s co-director, Dr. C. Robin Buell. She is one of the scientists involved in “The Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium” (PGSC). A component of her PBSC grant, which supports 16 research groups from 13 countries, is education outreach. In an effort to enlighten the public on the importance of research funding not only for potatoes but agriculture in general, Buell, along with Michigan State University (MSU) potato breeder (our SolCAP co-director), Dr. David Douches, collaborated with the United States Botanic Garden. Visitors to the USBG, which is located at 100 Maryland Ave., Washington D.C. just west of the Capitol Building, gained a wealth of knowledge and were entertained as well. 

Spud's Unearthed 1

“Spuds Unearthed” exhibit at the United States Botanic Garden.  Photo credit:  United States Botanic Garden.

The exhibit was focused with the general public in mind. There were several sections of the exhibit ensuring that there was something that would appeal to just about everyone.  Sections in the exhibit are named “Delicious”, “Playful”, “Well Traveled”, “The Potato Genome Project” and “Living and Growing”.   The founders of the privately owned “Potato Museum”, Tom and Meredith Hughes generously collaborated with the USBG by displaying some of their wide collection of artifacts and entertaining memorabilia.  The living and growing section of the exhibit features an aeroponic potato growing display which was designed and built by Joseph Coombs and Greg Steere (scientists in Douches’ Potato Research Program). Visitors are able to see potatoes forming right before there eyes. Kelly Zarka (scientist in Douches’ Research Program) along with David Douches prepared a potato growing guide handout so visitors can “unearth” their own spuds at home.  The Delicious section provides information on the nutritional benefits of the potato as well as showing the culinary point of view over the years. 

“Spuds Unearthed” 4 

Dr. David Douches revealing the aeroponic potato growing display.
Photo Credit: Joseph Coombs.

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The Delicious section of  “Spud’s Unearthed”. Photo Credit: United States Botanic Garden.

Spud's Unearthed 3

An information panel in the “Potato Genome Project” section of  “Spud’s Unearthed”.
 Photo Credit: Dr. C. Robin Buell

The “Spuds Unearthed” exhibit featured some demonstrations both in indoor and outdoor settings as well as having some guest scientists for a lecture series.  Other events, including the "Wacky Potato Science Fair Workshop", were held in the Fall of 2010.

The “Spuds Unearthed” exhibit ran from May 8th through October 11, 2010.   For more information on the United States Botanic garden visit their website at