Potato LEAF Scholarship Program

Each year, the Potato Leadership, Education and Advancement Foundation (Potato LEAF) awards one $10,000 academic scholarship to a graduate student with strong interest in research that can directly benefit the potato industry. Research focus may include basic research or applied research that improves potato production efficiency, addresses pest management and disease issues, increases consumer benefits from potato consumption and or produces knowledge related to advancing the competitiveness of the U. S. potato industry.

2023-24 Scholarship Recipient

Jacob Meeuwsen, a Ph.D. student at Washington State University (WSU), was awarded Potato LEAF’s 2023-24 Academic Scholarship.

A Kennewick, Washington native, Meeuwsen is focused on intelligent potato water-use efficiency, land-use management practices, and reducing water loss via evaporation and runoff. He is currently working to optimize predictive evapotranspiration (ET) and suggested irrigation amounts as they relate to changes in plant spatial arrangement and population and to utilize both to mitigate heat and water stress. He is also testing a novel irrigation method to maximize water use efficiency in potatoes, along with other aspects of irrigation. Meeuwsen plans to use information collected from his research to build a predictive ET and irrigation app for potatoes, with the help of the Information Technology Services and the AgWeatherNet teams at Washington State University.

“Receiving the Potato Leaf Scholarship is a great honor for me. It shows that the research I do means something to the potato industry. Receiving this scholarship will help me achieve my goals by inspiring me to think of new and innovative ways to help the potato industry become more sustainable and efficient. Thank you again for the recognition and awarding me this scholarship” said Meeuwsen after receiving the award.

“Potato LEAF is dedicated to securing the long-term health of the U.S. potato industry by investing in the leaders of tomorrow, Jacob is the next bright piece of our future,” said the foundation’s chair Gregg Halverson. “We are excited to aid Jacob as he furthers his education and continues his research that will advance the industry to a better, more sustainable future.”

Prior to attending WSU, Meeuwsen received a Bachelor of Science degree in crop science from the University of Idaho in May 2022. He previously worked for ProGene Plant Research as a pulse breeder intern and greenhouse manager from 2020-2022 during the academic year. During the summers he worked for Syngenta Crop Protection, in Hermiston Oregon, as a general assistant conducting experimental pesticide field trials. Meeuwsen began his PhD research at WSU in May of 2022 under the direction of Dr. Mark J. Pavek, a Professor and State Potato Extension Specialist located in Pullman, WA.

Meeuwsen is a member of the Potato Association of America, Secretary of the Tri-State Potato Research and Breeding Program, where he will transition to the Committee Chair in 2025, and he is currently assisting Dr. Pavek and WSU Potato Research Group with public outreach and variety development.

“Jacob has assisted with many WSU research and extension activities. He is an intelligent team player with great work ethic, routinely exceeding my expectations. After he graduates, he is interested in continuing his career within PNW agriculture, focusing on potato production,” wrote Dr. Pavek in his letter of recommendation.

“If successful, my research will aid potato growers on a daily basis and during extreme heat and water stress events by optimizing the plant water use efficiency, maximizing production and economic return,” said Meeuwsen in his application. “By improving irrigation and water-use efficiency, benefits will expand beyond the field and into American homes, preserving our water and livelihood.”