Large research project looks to combat major potato disease

Large research project looks to combat major potato disease.

More than $3 million is being invested in studying a major cause of potato yield reduction in Prince Edward Island and other potato growing areas in Canada.

The federal government is contributing over $2.3 million to support the Canadian Horticultural Council’s research into managing the Potato Early Dying (PED) disease. The horticulture sector contributed an additional CAD 991,918 towards this research, for a total investment of more than CAD 3.3 million.

The purpose of the project is to provide potato growers with the knowledge, tools and technologies they need to manage Potato Early Dying, which results in premature aging, limiting potato yield by as much as 50 per cent.

As part of the project, the Canadian Horticulture Council will survey potato fields on Prince Edward Island among other areas in the country to determine the levels of PED and evaluate the control of PED through growers’ cropping systems, best management practices and control products.

The P.E.I. Potato Board is involved in soil testing of up to 30 fields across the province each fall testing for two pathogens that are involved in PED. The testing began last fall and goes to 2023.

Ryan Barrett, the board’s research and agronomy co-ordinator, says the four worst fields – those that appear to have the highest levels of the pathogens – and the four best fields will be compared.

He adds partners in the project, like Cavendish Farms, are looking at managing methods to better combat the disease.

Ryan Barrett:
 

“We’re going to see how the disease impacts in those fields,’’

“It’s a very broad-based project,’’

“It’s good that we are all kind of working together and sharing that information.”

Dahu Chen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is co-leading the project.

He describes PED, which has been around for many, many years, as a complex disease that cannot be controlled by one single method. Chen says this current project is the largest ever to tackle the disease.

The major symptom of PED is the premature wilting and senescence of the potato plant late in the season by the disease, verticillium wilt, limiting the opportunity for tuber bulking. This results in lower marketable yield and a smaller size profile of resultant tubers.

Chen:
 

“We know this disease has a huge impact on the yield.”

With this new funding, the federal government has invested a total of $13.8 million in Canada’s horticulture research cluster, which is giving farmers cutting-edge technologies and practices for better pest management, better handling of produce and improved soil health.

The research cluster is also developing new sustainable practices to reduce the environmental footprint as well as new crop varieties to keep growers competitive.

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