Jan 17, 2022
Potato wart concerns in PEI predate positive tests

The Canadian federal government is moving to assist Prince Edward Island (PEI) potato farmers regain access to U.S. markets, although it was made public that concerns over potato wart predated confirmation of the disease in PEI fields in November.

A new committee was announced recently by the Canadian Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau to assist the PEI potato industry to improve potato wart testing and regain markets lost to multiple instances of potato wart in PEI fields. At the first public hearing of that committee on Jan. 13, it was revealed the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) suspended export permits for PEI seed potatoes to Uruguay in October when fields could not be certified as free of potato wart. Testing for potato wart revealed the presence of the disease in November, which eventually led to suspension of trade of all potatoes from PEI to the U.S. and other Canadian provinces.

The Jan. 7 announcement of the new committee occurred as CFIA and UDSA-APHIS were meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss the technical processes needed to restore trade. Canada had previously completed a limited national survey of potato wart that began before the recent detections in November 2021 that resulted in prohibitions on domestic shipment of PEI seed potatoes within Canada and suspension of exports to the U.S. That survey fortunately found no evidence of potato wart outside of PEI.

Additional comprehensive testing is ongoing to determine where the disease resides within PEI fields after CFIA announced last year that soil testing had declined by over 75% in the past five years to less than 1,700 in 2021. This reduction in testing has created a lack of awareness as to which fields may contain the disease and which fields are at lower risk. For reference, the USDA-overseen program in southeastern Idaho for pale cyst nematode (PCN) averages 50,000 soil samples a year to determine which fields should remain in quarantine. The PCN monitoring in Idaho has been going on since 2007.

‚ÄúThis (committee formation) appears to prioritize the technical process and thereby seeks to restore and enhance soil testing,” said U.S. National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles said through a statement. “If that is accurate, it is a very positive step forward that will shorten the trade disruption.”


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