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Mexico, Japan Join Canada In Shipping Restrictions on Some U.S. Potatoes

Canada and Mexico have closed their doors to shipments of fresh Idaho potatoes, and Japan has stopped all fresh shipments of U.S. potatoes from entering the country after a potato cyst nematode was found on an eastern Idaho farm, according to the North American Potato Market News.

According to earlier reports from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada is calling its ban temporary, though it is not known how long any of the shipping bans will last.

The nematode does not pose a threat to human health, but can reduce the yield of potatoes and other crops, according to USDA. There is no sign that the quality of tubers grown in Idaho has been affected.

As a result of Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) survey efforts, two cysts – the size of pinheads – were found in a soil sample at the University of Idaho. The university identified the cysts as those of the potato cyst nematode. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service confirmed the finding.

This is the first time the potato cyst nematode has been found in the United States, according to USDA. The university has conducted more than 9,000 soil sample tests since 2003. To date, no other cysts have been found in any other Idaho samples.

APHIS and ISDA scientists have isolated the origin of the cysts to two fields – covering approximately 500 acres – on a farm in Idaho. APHIS is in the process of placing the two fields under quarantine and will conduct extensive sampling of the soil in cooperation with ISDA to determine whether additional potato cyst nematodes are present. APHIS and ISDA also are working to trace the origin of the seed that was planted in these fields.

The potato cyst nematode, Globodera pallida, is a major pest of potato crops in cool-temperate areas. It primarily affects plants within the potato family, including tomatoes, eggplants and some weeds. If left uncontrolled, nematodes can cause up to 80 percent yield loss, according to USDA.

The potato cyst nematode is widely distributed in many potato-growing regions throughout the world. Potato cyst nematode infestations may be associated with patches of poor growth. Affected potato plants may exhibit yellowing, wilting or death of foliage – none of which have been observed in Idaho potato fields.

Originally posted Thursday, Apr. 27, 2006

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