CFIA’s 2010 tests find no potato cyst nematode

Soil samples from potato fields across the country and testing of Canada’s 2010 seed potato crop have turned up no sign of potato cyst nematode (PCN).

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Thursday it had collected and analyzed over 43,200 soil samples during the national 2010 PCN survey.

The agency said it “prioritized these samples to meet importing countries’ requirements and export deadlines.”

With the support of seed potato growers and “other stakeholders,” the agency said it has tested about 80 per cent of the entire 2010 Canadian seed potato production area.

Golden nematode most recently 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 early 2009.

Ottawa and Washington agreed in mid-2009 to a set of revised cross-border PCN guidelines, which include notifying the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prior to the deregulation of any field.

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” where PCN has turned up in the past.

Golden nematode and pale cyst nematode, the two PCN species found in Canada, do not pose a risk to human health but are considered quarantine pests because if left unmanaged, they can reduce yields of potatoes and other host crops such as tomatoes and eggplants by up to 80 per cent.

PCNs infest the soil and are considered very difficult to eradicate as they can persist dormant in the soil, for several decades.

Both PCNs have also been confirmed in the U.S. and 63 other countries worldwide. Within Canada, both pale cyst nematode and golden nematode have been found in Newfoundland, while golden nematode has also been found in Alberta and Quebec and on Vancouver Island.

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