Seminar Emphasizes Importance of Clean Seed

Published online: Jan 27, 2019 Articles, Event Calendar, Seed Potatoes Desirai Schild
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Source: Post Register

The 50th annual Idaho Seed Potato Growers Seminar offered optimism and information on how using certified seed is decreasing a variety of potato diseases.

The seminar is the kickoff to the annual Idaho Potato Conference at Idaho State University in Pocatello las week.

The government shutdown impacted the program because featured speaker Rich Novy, of the USDA at Aberdeen, was furloughed as a nonessential employee and could not address the gathering. Ian MacRae, University of Minnesota, also was absent because weather would not permit him to fly out of his home state.

Alan Westra, southeast area manager of the Idaho Crop Improvement Association, spoke on seeds grower’s annual seed experiments in Hawaii.

Certified seed is carefully cleaned to prevent transferring such diseases as leaf roll, ring rot, mosaic, blackleg, PVY and similar diseases.

The spotlight on planting certified seed has increased through the years because planting diseased seed has proved to not only damage the existing crop but to contaminate the ground where planting occurs and to spread to other fields.

A serious ring rot epidemic in 2014 caused the state of Idaho to implement rules governing the disease as well as instituting mandatory testing, certification and recertification of seed potatoes. The initial certification program began many years before.

The Idaho Legislature created the Seed and Plant Certification Bill No. 107 of 1959. This designated the University of Idaho and its College of Agriculture to administer and conduct seed certification.

“The key to controlling disease is to start with clean seed,” Westra said. “Producers are more aware of the need to plant clean, tested seed and to decontaminate all equipment to discourage the spread of various diseases.”

The inspection program also tests a variety of other crops such as grass, grains, alfalfa, clover, canola and beans. Producers of all crops are taught to effectively decontaminate equipment to reduce disease. They also are encouraged to pay attention to associated items such as conveyers and pliers. Swabbing has indicated that some disease is transmitted from conveyer belts transferring seed into trucks. Trucks also have been shown to harbor the diseases.

Westra’s office has a large list of where certified seed can be found and purchased. It also offers disease testing to identify any problems.

The seed test-growing plots used to be in Florida but have moved to Hawaii in recent years.

“I planted the seed as shallow as I dared,” Westra said of his late-2018 plantings in Hawaii. “Due to the weather, the crop this year is much better than last. The rows filled in very quickly.”

The most-planted potato varieties in Idaho in 2018 were Russet Burbank, Russet Norkotah, Russet Ranger and Clearwater Russet.

“The 2018 seed health appears to be steady from 2017,” Westra said. “The fields with visually detectible PVY levels decreased slightly compared to last year. There were no cases of ring rot during field inspections.”

Westra said using clean certified seed has significantly reduced and nearly eliminated common potato disease.

“But, certified seed is the key to keeping disease in check,” he said. “Our testing methods have improved and helping in spreading disease. Using certified seed is beneficial to the producers and the overall potato health.”