This entry is part 23 of 29 in the series Fall - 2016


by Jason Kosovski


When Tyler Thompson left his family farm to go to medical school, he thought his days in production agriculture were behind him. But the medical profession also meant long hours and an often stressful quality of life, so Thompson ultimately decided to return to agriculture. That decision led him to Colorado State University, where he is now manager of the 250-acre San Luis Valley Research Center.

The center in south-central Colorado grows a number of crops, including a malt barley and its signature commodity, potatoes. Nearly 200 different varieties of potatoes are grown there, with some 80,000 potatoes under observation during the growing season.

“The impact of the San Luis Valley Research Center on the potato industry in Colorado is tremendous,” Thompson said. “Part of my job is to interact with growers, provide them with resources such as potato seeds, and be responsive to their needs by facilitating high-quality, cutting-edge service and research.”

“Part of our work is to help producers discover and learn new methods for how to grow and how to store potatoes and other crops as well as how to plan for diseases,” Thompson said.

“Tyler is a strong supporter of research programs at CSU, particularly those at the San Luis Valley Research Center,” said David Holm, a professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, who develops new potato cultivars at the center. “Tyler has an excellent working relationship with growers in the area, a relationship that facilitates our introduction of new potato selections and cultivars from our research program and, ultimately, helps assure their successful adoption by the potato industry.”


Thompson grew up on a 3,500-acre corn and soybean farm in Illinois. After completing undergraduate degrees in pre-medicine and chemistry at Illinois State University in 2009, Thompson returned to the family farm.

“I wanted to use agronomic science to help our farm grow and prosper,” said Thompson. “The need for innovative growing methods became even more urgent during the drought that hit Illinois in 2012.”

Thompson went on to receive a master’s degree in crop science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he worked at that university’s research farm and became a member of the American Society of Agronomy.

This is actually Thompson’s first time growing potatoes. Despite having to learn about a new crop, Thompson’s work at CSU’s largest potato operation has been incredibly successful and tremendously beneficial to Colorado potato growers.

“Tyler has brought energy and new ideas to the research farm,” said Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee. “His enthusiasm has been instrumental in getting additional resources for the farm, resources that were badly needed.”

But it’s not all about potatoes.

“What we have learned about managing inputs, such as water and fertilizer, will help advance CSU’s research across many crops and further build our status as the go-to source for agricultural research here in the San Luis Valley and across the state,” Thompson said.