Klamath Basin potato farmers are facing a unique set of challenges this year as they move to unfamiliar ground. Some are combating infestations of wireworms in fields that were previously perennial grasses, said Brian Charlton, a potato researcher with the Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center.
Many producers are also reporting their potato seeds are being attacked by seed corn maggots, Charlton said.
The seed corn maggot is the larvae of a common fly, and is reported in some Basin fields every year, Charlton said.
"But this year it appears to be much more widespread," he said. "I think a lot of it has to do with the cool, wet soil. That's usually one of the favored things for pest development."
The maggots feed on decaying material, such as the seed potato or plant debris from the previous year's crop. Charlton said an infestation usually results in seed failure and a reduced yield, but could result in additional problems.
"They'll feed on seed pieces. (The potato seeds) then have fresh, open wounds so secondary pathogens can get in there and further break down the seed pieces and you don't get a viable plant that emerges from it."
Bob Gasser, co-owner of Basin Fertilizer, said the seed corn maggot infestation is pretty bad in some fields, but the plants that survive should produce saleable produce.
"The big issue is you're going to ground that you're not really sure of the history, so you run into problems you can't foresee," Gasser said.
Gasser said wireworm problems can be treated before or immediately after planting, and treatment can be an unexpected expense. Gasser said treating a field for wireworms costs about $60 an acre.