In a news release issued today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) commends the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for voluntarily prohibiting export of seed and fresh potatoes from Canada’s Prince Edward Island (PEI) into the United States due to the confirmed presence of Synchytrium endobioticum in that country.
Synchytrium endobioticum, a fungus, is the causal agent of potato wart. Potato wart is one of the most serious diseases of potatoes in the world. The disease poses no threat to human health, but it reduces yield and makes potatoes unmarketable.
APHIS says it is not known to be present in the United States.
Safeguarding U.S. potato production against potato wart is a top priority for APHIS, the Service says in its press release. Potato wart is both a federal quarantine pest and an Agricultural Select Agent in the United States – that is an agent that has the potential to pose a severe threat to public, animal or plant health, or to animal or plant products. It has limited capacity for natural spread but can be introduced to new areas through infected potatoes and movement of infested soil and equipment.
According to APHIS, there are limited measures to control the fungus once it is present in a field. In October 2021, (CFIA) detected and confirmed potato wart in two separate potato fields on PEI. These detections follow a confirmed detection on a separate PEI farm in 2020 and indicate that the organism is present in areas not previously known to be infested.
APHIS says in the news release it is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to protect U.S. agriculture by keeping potentially infected potato shipments from PEI out of the United States.
In a step effective at midnight on November 22, 2021, APHIS asked CBP to refuse entry of all propagative and consumption shipments of potato (Solanum sp.), with or without phytosanitary certification, originating from PEI. Additionally, CBP will ensure that used farm machinery, farm tools, and farming equipment from PEI is visibly clean and free from soil to enter the United States.
APHIS says its mission is to maintain a robust safeguarding system while facilitating agricultural trade. APHIS is in communication with CFIA as they continue their assessment of the potato wart distribution in PEI and evaluate potential mitigation measures.