Potato cyst nematode survey planned
MERRILL — Agriculture officials don’t think the potato cyst nematode has infected fields beyond seven identified in Idaho last year.
But it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Oregon State University Extension officials urged Klamath Basin potato farmers to take part in a national survey to scan for the pest, saying participation is critical to prevent the economic effects the pest can have on agricultural areas.
“It’s unlikely anyone here is infested but if you are and don’t know, you will affect your neighbors,” said Russ Ingham of Oregon State University’s department of botany and plant pathology. He talked to farmers at an annual potato grower seminar Feb. 15 in Merrill.
The survey is extensive, targeting all seed fields and 10 percent of randomly selected production fields. Procedure involves taking a tablespoon of soil for a sample every 10 feet in a field. Oregon Department of Agriculture officials are conducting the survey in Oregon.
Several factors are contributing to the urgency and importance of the survey. Ingham said the pest can be devastating to farmers, cutting yield by 80 percent.
Eradication is problematic since it can survive in the soil without a host for up to 30 years. Identified infested fields in Idaho are involved in a five-year eradication plan that involves chemical application, crop rotation and other methods.
Trade also can be heavily affected by infestation. Canada, South Korea and Mexico banned all imports from Idaho, and Japan is refusing all potato shipments from the U.S. because of the pest.
Grower Sid Staunton of Tulelake said officials in California conducted a similar survey of agricultural land last year and is expected to continue this year.
Staunton said identification of the pest in one’s soil can be disastrous, and catching it early can lead to quicker treatment and a quicker return to production.
“I would rather know than not know,” he said.