Canada, U.S. revise PCN guidelines

Canadian and U.S. ag officials have agreed on revised guidelines for potato cyst nematode (PCN), under which cross-border seed potato trade can continue.

“The U.S. and Canada are committed to working together to limit the spread of potato cyst nematodes on both sides of the border,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a joint government release Thursday.

“These revised guidelines will ensure abundant potatoes for consumers as well as viable markets for potato farmers.”

PCN poses no human health risk but is recognized internationally as a quarantine plant pest, as it can reduce yields of host crops such as potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants by up to 80 per cent and can survive dormant in host soils for decades.

Testing of Canada’s seed potato fields following the 2008 crop turned up no cases of PCN. Golden nematode turned up in a single soil sample in each of two Alberta potato fields in late 2007, halting that province’s seed potato exports into the U.S. until late January this year.

The U.S. market has since been open to all Canadian seed potatoes that meet PCN phytosanitary guidelines, not counting potatoes grown in regulated areas.

The two governments said their new PCN guidelines lay out the terms for the national survey of potato production for PCN in both Canada and the U.S. and now require increased soil sampling and testing from all fields where seed potatoes are produced for trade between the two countries.

The guidelines, they said, also outline the measures that should be taken to manage a PCN detection and the procedures needed to lift restrictions on potato cropland afterward.

“Both Canada and the U.S. have worked closely with industry representatives in revising these guidelines and will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure specific requirements are met,” the governments said.

“Continually improving our survey strategies and enhancing the required measures when PCN is detected are key to preventing the spread of this pest while ensuring the continued trade of seed potatoes across the Canada-U.S. border.”

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