Finger named new sweet potato specialist

Bruce Schultz, Finger, Mavis  |  8/24/2013 2:32:11 AM

News Release Distributed 08/23/13

CHASE, La. – Mavis Finger, the new LSU AgCenter sweet potato specialist, always knew she wanted a career in making things grow.

“When I was growing up, my dad always had a garden, and I always had a little flower garden,” she said.

Her father, Christopher Finger, is a retired researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma, and she often would help him scout fields. “I got my research influence from him,” she said.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in horticultural science from LSU in 2010, and then went to the University of Georgia at Tifton for a master’s degree in plant pathology, focusing on fungicide resistance of the pathogen that causes gummy stem blight disease in watermelons, the No. 2 vegetable crop in Georgia.

Fungicide resistance developed the same year that the fungicide was registered for commercial use in watermelon, she said, a remarkably short time span. “Every time they get a new chemistry, they have this problem.”

With her new degree in hand, she joined the AgCenter Aug. 1 and is located at the Sweet Potato Research Station here.

This year’s sweet potato crop has good potential, she said.

“It’s a little dry now so our growers need moisture for final sizing but we could still have an average to above-average crop.”

Finger also will work as horticultural specialist in the LSU AgCenter’s Northeast Region. “It’s essentially answering homeowners’ questions and helping vegetable growers.”

She also plans to expand the region’s Master Gardener Program.

Tara Smith, Finger’s predecessor and now Northeast Regional Director, said she’s confident the new specialist will learn the job quickly and do well.

“She’s hit the ground running,” Smith said. “She’s already met with most of the sweet potato producers in Louisiana.”

Bruce Schultz

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