US: Maine seed potatoes growers looking to protect brand against disease

A farmer from Pennsylvania picks up a load of Atlantic seed potatoes on April 23 from Hemphill Farms in Presque Isle. Tests of Hemphill's seed potatoes have not found signs of Dickeya, a new bacteria that has caused problems for some seed potato growers and their customers.The greater American potato industry is closely watching Maine, as seed potato farmers prepare to control a new outbreak of an old disease. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is considering a proposal to set limits on the prevalence of the rotting disease blackleg in its certification of seed potatoes, which more than 100 Maine farmers sell to other farmers along the East Coast. Over the last two years, the Maine Potato Board and some seed potato farms have been dealing with concerned customers — farmers growing certified Maine seed potatoes who suffered outbreaks of blackleg. Some farmers in states such as Maryland and Pennsylvania lost as much as half of their crop to the disease in 2015, said Tim Hobbs, the Maine Potato Board’s director of grower relations. More

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