Potato Disease Summit held in Maine

Published online: Nov 22, 2017 Articles
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Source: Fox 22 Bangor 

Researchers from all over the world were in Bangor, Maine, last week, trying to find a way to stop a bacteria that could threaten the potato industry.

"This is not an emerging problem. This is an existing one we are trying to get ahead of." said Steven Johnson, UMaine cooperative extension professor.

Maine's potato crop brings a lot of money to the state and provides a livelihood for many growers. All of that could be threatened because of bacteria that causes blackleg disease.

Johnson added "The pathogen will rot the seed. The plant does not come up so it produces nothing. It may rot the tuber in the field. It may produce 20 to 80 percent less yield in the field. It may rot the potatoes in storage."

It isn't just Maine that is impacted. The disease is hitting the potato industry worldwide. Researchers from 19 states and four different countries are in Bangor trying to find solutions.

"This is a new pathogen complex in an old disease. It doesn't act the same way. What we have been doing to control this disease through tissue culture and through sanitation isn't working." continued Johnson.

For the past three growing seasons the bacteria has caused significant losses in the United States and it's been happening even longer in Europe.

One researcher from James Hutton Institute, Ian Toth, said "It's much better that we can find ways to stop it now than we allow it to get any worse because economically. It can be devastating and we don't want that to happen."