Nematode causes potato seed sales to be restricted between U.S. and Canada

17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Officials with the Maine Potato Board say further restrictions on the movement of seed potatoes between the United States and Canada have inconvenienced some Maine growers.
    “We’ve got Maine growers who ship seed to Canada every year,” said Timothy Hobbs, director of development/grower relations for the Maine Potato Board, “but there’s a lot more seed that comes from Canada to the U.S. than goes from the U.S. to Canada.
“Most of our growers ship up and down the East Coast, as well as in-state. The majority of our seed is divided between Florida, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania and Maine. It’s a small percentage of Maine growers who ship into Canada,” he said. “The growers in Maine that have seed sales in Canada will either have to abide by the testing protocol or not send the seed to Canada, but it’s going to be of greater burden on the Canadians than it will be on us because the amount of seed coming south as opposed to going north is greater.”
A lack of national nematode surveys has led to the restrictions on the movement of seed potatoes between the two countries. The first phase of the protocols – developed by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency – went into effect March 21, requiring all shipments of seed potatoes to include a phytosanitary certificate based on recent soil tests.
“You can only get a phytosanitary certificate if you’ve had a recent soil test that is linked to the seed shipment that is going either way – out of or into the U.S. and Canada – that comes back negative for pale cyst nematode or golden nematode,” said Hobbs.
The restrictions are the result of last year’s identification of pale cyst nematode (PCN) in Idaho and golden nematode in Quebec. The Idaho infestation is believed to be contained at low levels in seven fields, but golden nematode has been found in about 140 fields at higher levels. Neither country has a complete survey, although the United States has partial survey data.
“The situations are dramatically different, but in the end, everyone has to take the same medicine,” said John Keeling, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Potato Council.
In Maine, growers can receive a phytosanitary certificate through the Maine Department of Agriculture.
“The paperwork is required anyway,” said Hobbs, “but what will be attached to the certificate will be something that states that, ‘This lot has been tested and found free from the nematodes.”
There is a cost of testing, but according to Hobbs, USDA will cover the expense.
“[If a Maine grower wants to send seed into Canada] they would call the Department of Agriculture’s seed certification agency,” he said. “They come out and take a sample based upon however many loads the grower wants to send. That sample goes from here to Idaho to an APHIS lab and a test is run to detect pale cyst nematode or golden nematode. That result is given back to the certification agency, the grower is either cleared or not cleared, and the seed either goes or doesn’t go.”
Hobbs said Maine growers view the restrictions as an “inconvenience.”
“There will be growers on both sides of the border who do not want to subject themselves to any additional testing or scrutiny who will either give up that seed sale or find an alternate customer for that seed,” he said. “This is a quarantinable disease … if they find it on your farm, you’re out of business, so nobody wants to take a test … even if they are 100 percent sure that they don’t have it, in case there was a mistake made on the other end. Growers are concerned about the potential impact the restrictions could have.”
Inspections of U.S. farms are done by state agencies, but the goal is to have a more complete survey for the 2008 season.