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Better potatoes post-harvest: Identifying diseases and engaging good management techniques

When the storage doors open and farmers look at their cured potatoes, they are hoping for high-quality spuds that will garner a fair price. Unfortunately, potatoes can be sneaky. Some don’t reveal problems until harvest, or worse, when they are already in storage. Ronda Payne reports for Fruit and Vegetable magazine.

Potato farmers should follow beneficial management practices and keep a keen eye on what’s happening from field preparation to packaging to minimize issues.

Marjo Dessureault with E.S. Cropconsult has been working with British Columbia potato growers in Canada to assess conditions, diseases and best practices to help farmers get the most from their crops. Her first piece of advice is to know the diseases.

“If you can recognize the disease, you’ll be better prepared to take action,” she says.

Determining which disease is present allows for better management and application of appropriate controls. However, treatments in potatoes vary and there are no silver bullets. Growers across the country can find detailed information in B.C.’s potato production guide.

Dessureault works with Trevor Harris, a sixth-generation farmer and co-owner of Pacific Potato in Delta, B.C. She conducts field monitoring at the site which grows seed potatoes, and knows the site well.

“She’s got information I don’t have,” Harris says. “She knows our operations well. If new stuff comes out, you gotta have someone to call.”

Potato diseases work together to exacerbate each other, and pests help to increase disease risk. Dessureault notes that seed with Fusarium planted in cold soil will lead to soft rot, and insects can create disease access. Insects like wireworm and tuber flea beetle can lead to Pythium, Fusarium and soft rot.

“Limiting insect damage is important because they create entry points,” she says. “Pythium and Fusarium enter tubers through wounds. [These diseases] are in the soil, just waiting, waiting for a wound to enter.”

Read the full article on Fruit and Vegetable magazine here
Photo: One of the ugliest potato diseases is Fusarium dry rot with its dark, hard spots, dark interior and mycelium growth.

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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