With few available treatments, a process called biofumigation is being used by some growers to manage PED. The process involves tilling mustard plants into the soil at a specific stage of growth with enough heat and moisture in the ground to induce a chemical breakdown of the plant material.
“As the mustard decomposes, it releases a chemical that reduces Verticillium wilt pathogens without adverse effects on the environment,” explains Dahu Chen, AAFC plant pathologist at the Fredericton Research and Development Centre.
As a side-effect, mustard biofumigation also delivers green compost into the soil, improving soil health. There is some evidence that the severity of PED symptoms is reduced in healthy soils.
“The disease has been around for a long time, but it is now identified to be a major factor limiting tuber yield in New Brunswick,” says Chen, who is studying the problem with colleague, AAFC researcher Bernie Zebarth.
“The pathogen can survive in the soil for a long time, even through the harshest winter conditions of eastern Canada,” explains Chen.
Chen and Zebarth are now working with industry partners, including Potatoes NB and McCain Foods Canada, to determine the effectiveness of mustard biofumigation through trials in commercial fields.
Dahu Chen, AAFC plant pathologist, examines the leaves of a potato plant for signs of disease. (Photo courtesy of AAFC)
Two spore traps are located in the Shelburne-Melancthon areas at D & C Vander Zaag Farms Ltd. and two others in the Alliston area at Mark and Shawn Murphy Farms. In the Delhi area, two spore traps are set up at Joe Lach's Farm and Fancy Pak Brand Inc. The final two spore traps are located in the Leamington area at Harry Bradley and Sons Farm.
Alliance Agri-Turf, Bayer CropScience, FS Partners, Holmes Agro and Syngenta provided funding for the 2018 late blight spore trap project.
A&L Laboratories in London, Ont. will conduct the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to identify the presence of late blight spores.
In the past two years, Eugenia Banks, a former potato specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affaris (OMAFRA), led a project evaluating passive spore trapping technology to help growers improve late blight management. The project recorded positive results. Spores were detected 15 days on average before late blight lesions were seen in a few fields. A previous Potatoes in Canada article goes indepth into the project and how effective spore traps are for preventing late blight.
“Spore traps represent another tool to be added to the potato growers’ arsenal to combat late blight,” Banks says. “If late blight spores are not detected by the traps, growers should still follow a preventative fungicide program and apply a fungicide spray before rows close. Also, fields should be scouted regularly.”
Potato seed infected late in the season with Dickeya (new blackleg) usually does not show symptoms in the field before harvest nor in seed storages. This is because Dickeya requires high temperatures for the development of visible symptoms. The optimum temperature for Dickeya is above 25 C.
By contrast, the old blackleg (Pectobacterium) can develop at cool temperatures (8 C to 10 C), and symptoms are usually visible when cutting seed.
Banks says she received two questions about Dickeya:
Q: If dormant infection of Dickeya is suspected, could you incubate a sample of tubers at 25 C to 30 C so the tubers will show Dickeya symptoms in about 2 weeks?
A: Banks asked Steve Johnson (Maine) and Gary Secor (North Dakota) this question and both said no. It takes more than two weeks for the symptoms to develop. Banks says the first time she saw Dickeya symptoms developing from seed tubers with dormant infection was in late June (the seed tubers had been planted by the middle of May), and both Johnson and Secor agree.
Q: Are Dickeya lesions smelly?
A: We all know how smelly the old blackleg is. The slimy, black stems smell like rotten fish, a disgusting smell noticeable at least 30 feet away from an infected plant. Usually Dickeya is not smelly. The bacterium grows inside the stem moving up in the vascular tissue. Dickeya-infected stems are usually dark brown, not inky black, slimy and smelly like the old blackleg. Eventually, the infected stems may be invaded by secondary bacteria that cause a black rot. If, shortly after emergence, you see small, wilted plants with a black stem base, it is probably the old blackleg. If the summer is cool and wet, probably the old blackleg will prevail. In hot summers, Dickeya will be the prevalent disease (wilted foliage is also a symptom of Dickeya).
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Potatoes New Brunswick annual general meetingFri Dec 07, 2018 @ 9:00AM - 03:00PM
Potato Business SummitWed Jan 09, 2019
Potato Expo 2019Wed Jan 09, 2019
Idaho Potato Conference and Ag Expo 2019Tue Jan 22, 2019