LETHBRIDGE - A Canadian monitoring program for potato pests has proven very valuable and offered good news for potato growers.
The program began in 2013 in cooperation with Scott Meers, an insect management specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
U-of-L bio-geography professor Dr. Dan Johnson and his team have been monitoring Prairie potato fields for the past few years, looking for evidence of the potato psyllid insect and a bacterium it can carry that can lead to zebra chip disease in potato crops.
DNA testing for the bacteria is done in the Larry Kawchuk lab at the Lethbridge Research Centre, where Johnson is a visiting scientist.
The research into Zebra chip is justified as it has affected potato crops in the United States, Mexico and New Zealand, causing millions of dollars in losses. Potatoes with zebra chip develop unsightly dark lines when fried, making affected potatoes unsellable.
According to Johnson, the pathogen was found by researchers in Idaho as early as May of this year. Since Alberta’s potato industry is worth more than a billion dollars alone, scientists and field workers want to ensure the both Alberta and Canada’s potato fields are being monitored.
A news release indicates that while hundreds of potato psyllids were found last year, researchers have found under 10 so far this year and none have the bacteria that cause zebra chip.
Johnson and his team have produced a network newsletter with a colour photo guide so growers can more easily watch for the stages of the potato psyllid.
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