What’s killing your potatoes and what precautions should you be taking?

Surveillance, seed knowledge and proper pre-season cleaning tactics are essential in avoiding the sector’s most prevalent pests

man making a presentation on stage

Producer surveillance is the first line of defence against pests that can have major impacts on Manitoba potato producers’ yields, a plant pathologist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development says.

“Surveillance is the key for all of these disease concerns. The process of collecting and recording the presence or absence of the diseases in your fields is critical in prevention,” explained Vikram Bisht at Manitoba Potato Days in Brandon. “Early detection of disease and pathogens in your crop systems is essential.”

Bisht spoke on diseases of concern and crop biosecurity to an auditorium full of potato producers.

According to Bisht, top diseases of concern to Manitoba potato producers right now include potato wart, brown rot, bacterial ring rot, cyst nematodes, late blight, tuber necrosis viruses and weeds.

“These are some of the pests I have considered to be potential threats to Manitoba potato producers,” he said. “And soil and seed are the major sources these pests are getting into your operations.”

Bisht provided attendees with tips and suggestions on how to best rid or keep their operations clean of devastating threats.

“Protect your farm property and your farm system through the operational management and crop health management. There are a few key steps to take at the start of every season and when obtaining seed.”

Bisht recommends cleaning and disinfecting all equipment and storages at the beginning of every new growing season through pressure washing or air pressure, disinfecting with a one to two per cent commercial bleach, as well as cleaning field equipment with scraper and hammer.

“It is also important for producers to remember to clean new equipment before taking it onto the field. Whether it is used or coming from the dealership, ensure that it is cleaned of all soil and disinfected.”

He recommends that when acquiring seed, be sure to use clean and certified seeds, regularly disinfect knives on seed cutters and be sure to exercise caution when sharing or making custom cuts.

“If at all possible, it is best to know the source of where you are getting your seed and ensure that the seed hasn’t been in contact with potato issues or non-potato disease issues as well,” added Bisht.

“Another great resource to producers is the national farm-level biosecurity standard and producer guide, which comes with a self-evaluation checklist to assist you in developing a biosecurity plan for your operations.”

The national farm-level biosecurity standard and guide was created through the co-operative effort of Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Potato Council, Canadian Horticulture Council, and the provincial Department of Agriculture, to provide a nationally consistent proactive approach for good biosecurity practices.

The standard, guide and self-evaluation checklist is available online at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.

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