The Washington, D.C.-based National Potato Council has awarded a $10,000 scholarship to Rhet Spear, a horticulture student at Washington State University working on his doctor's degree.

His work focuses on identifying new, viable fresh-market varieties as alternatives to Russet Norkotah, which is susceptible to potato virus Y, according to a news release.

In 2011, Spear began a three-year variety trial evaluating the economics, bruise resistance, storability and consumer preference of 12 varieties.

He also began a trial to identify new processing and fresh-market varieties that require fewer inputs.

In addition to his academic work, Spear is a member of the Potato Association of America and the chair-elect of the Tri-State portion of the Pacific Northwest Potato Variety Development Program.

The NPC scholarship is awarded annually to a graduate student pursuing advanced studies in a field that will improve the potato industry.