The Colorado State University Potato Program at the San Luis Valley Research Center consists of six team members. They are Zach Czarnecki, Jessica Chitwood-Brown, Andrew Houser, Samuel Essah, Mohamad Chikh-Ali, and Sastry Jayanty. This interdisciplinary team focuses on potato research and extension education programs. The central mission of this team is to support the Colorado potato industry, and consumers alike.
Zach Czarnecki San Luis Valley Research Center Manager
Zach Czarnecki is Manager of the San Luis Valley Research Center. The primary responsibilities of his position include oversight of financial, equipment, infrastructure, and personnel resources for this agricultural experiment station. Prior to this appointment, Zach worked on a large vegetable, grain, and alfalfa farm in Weld County, CO. Zach attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO where he received a B.S. in Soil and Crop Sciences.
Dr. Jessica Chitwood-Brown Potato Breeding and Selection Program
Dr. Jessica Chitwood-Brown is from Alma, Arkansas where she grew up riding horses, competing in rodeos and horse shows, and helping with her family’s small farm. She received a B.S. in biology from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith in 2012 and a M.S. in Horticulture with an emphasis in plant breeding from the University of Arkansas (2016) where she worked in spinach and cowpea breeding. Dr. Chitwood-Brown then received a Ph.D. in Horticulture from the University of Florida (2020) working in tomato breeding and genetics where her research focused on the use of complementing conventional plant breeding with molecular breeding tools to improve disease resistance. Jessica will carry this concept forward into the CSU potato breeding program where she will implement the use of molecular breeding tools to facilitate the development of improved potato varieties that meet the needs of growers. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys knitting, playing with her two dogs, and spending time outdoors with her family.
PCS Team Colorado Potato Certification Service
Andrew Houser has been working with potato disease issues at the SLV Research Center for 13 years. He received his BS in Botany from Adams State College in 1999 and his MS in Horticulture with a plant pathology emphasis from Colorado State University in 2008. Andrew’s research interests include evaluating new potato clones for disease resistance, evaluating powdery scab population dynamics in the soil, as well as developing new strategies for managing black leg and tuber soft rot. He is currently working on a PhD from CSU and is Manager of the Colorardo Potato Certification Service. In this position, he works with local potato seed growers in producing high quality Colorado seed. Andrew currently resides in Monte Vista with his wife (Lori) and his two sons (Tanner and Josiah).
Dr. Samuel Essah Potato Crop Management Program
Dr. Samuel Essah is Assistant Professor and State Extension Specialist at Colorado State University, in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, at the San Luis Valley Research Center. He is the head of the Potato Management and Physiology Program at the research center, and conducts research to develop cultural management guidelines for the successful, sustainable, and economic production of potato cultivars, which optimize their genetic potential, while minimizing economic input and environmental degradation. He has contributed to the release of over fourteen Colorado potato varieties from the Colorado State University potato breeding and development program.
Dr. Essah is currently the U.S. director of the Association of African Agricultural Professionals in North America, director of the Potato Association of America, and Senior Editor of the Production and Management Section of the American Journal of Potato Research.
Dr. Essah has been involved in International Agricultural Activities since joining Colorado State University. His involvement in international agricultural has taken him to countries such as South Africa, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Australia, Scotland, and Ghana several times.
Dr. Essah is a member of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, American Society of Horticultural Science, the Potato Association of America, European Potato Association, African Potato Association, and life member of the Indian Potato Association.
Mohamad Chikh-Ali Plant Pathology Program
Mohamad Chikh-Ali is the plant pathologist at the San Luis Valley Research Center with 60% research and 40% extension responsibilities. His program is focused on conducting applied research to manage diseases of various crops grown in the San Luis Valley, primarily in potatoes. He received his doctoral degree in plant pathology from the Tokyo University of Agriculture .
Sastry jayanty Potato Postharvest Physiology Program
Dr. Sastry Jayanty obtained his Ph.D in plant molecular biology from National Chemical Laboratory, Pune and ICRISAT, Hyderabad, India. His postdoctoral training was at Michigan State University and Purdue University on postharvest biology of fruits and vegetables.
Sastry is currently Assistant Professor and State Extension Specialist at Colorado State University, in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, at the San Luis Valley Research Center.
Sastry’s research interests include physiological disorders and nutritional aspects concerning potato. His research employs both molecular and biochemical tools to study the pre and postharvest factors affecting the quality of the produce. He recently published articles concerning accumulation of selenium in potatoes, ways to reduce acrylamide formation in fried potato products and characterization of antidiabetic compounds such as biguanide related compounds in vegetables.
One Ph.D student successfully graduated from Sastry’s postharvest program and he is currently co-advising three students who are pursuing their master degrees in Horticulture. Sastry enjoys mentoring students through work experiences and/or science projects. He serves on San Luis Valley Regional Science Fair Board of Trustees.