Cross-border seed potato standards reworked

Alberta seed potatoes, possibly including some of the 2007 crop, may be allowed to travel south under new guidelines for seed potato trade between Canada and the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on Monday announced “modified” guidelines to allow for continued potato trade in the event of future findings of potato cyst nematodes (PCN) in either Canada or the U.S.

Under new requirements for certifying exports, all fields used to produce seed potatoes for trade between Canada and the U.S. must be soil sampled using a full field grid pattern. The previous technique, perimeter sampling, will no longer qualify.

All potato shipments between the two countries must also include a phytosanitary certificate with an extra declaration to confirm that the seed potatoes originated from fields tested and found free of PCN.

CFIA and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) revised the guidelines in response to the findings of golden nematode in Alberta last fall.

If Canada meets all of the requirements of the revised guidelines, some Alberta seed potatoes from the 2007 crop could be eligible for export to the U.S., CFIA said in a press release.

CFIA said it’s now working with stakeholders and growers to put a priority on soil sampling and testing for Alberta seed potatoes from the 2007 crop that were intended for export to the U.S.

Also under the new guidelines, all land used to produce seed potatoes in a province or state with an area regulated for PCN, or that turns up a new PCN detection, must be soil sampled and tested for PCN.

CFIA said the revised guidelines also adjust the risk reduction measures set up following findings of PCN in 2006, including pale cyst nematode in Idaho and the golden nematode in Quebec.

PCNs are recognized internationally as quarantine plant pests; they don’t pose a threat to human health but can potentially cause significant damage to potato crops, as well as to tomatoes. PCN survey work for 2008 will be based on the agreed-upon soil sampling and testing regime.

CFIA said it has completed a cross-Canada analysis for the presence of PCN in all soil samples associated with the 2007 seed potato crop. PCN was not detected — outside of the two fields from two separate farms in Alberta — in the analysis of 19,400 samples collected nationwide.

CFIA said it will continue to seek Mexico’s acceptance of similar regulated areas to help lift province-wide prohibition on Alberta potatoes.

PCN prevention

What can potato growers do to help prevent PCN infection on their fields and cut down the PCN population over time? CFIA offers the following advice:

  • Avoid sharing farm machinery, equipment, tools and containers without proper sanitation.
  • Do not spread tare dirt or debris onto farmland or areas where it could be spread to other agricultural land. Tare dirt or debris is the loose soil knocked off either during potato processing operations or during storage filling/emptying operations.
  • Never use bags, containers, et cetera more than once for seed potato transport unless they are free of soil.
  • Be sure all commercial transport vehicles are free of soil.
  • Clean and disinfect all machinery, vehicles and other equipment before going between fields.
  • Plant certified seed potatoes produced on land determined not to be infested with PCN.
  • Avoid continuous planting of potatoes in the same field(s). A long rotation cycle is critical for managing and preventing PCN. During interim years, plant non-host crops.
  • Contain water and soil during tuber washing to avoid contaminating farm land.
  • Processing facilities should not return soil, water, cull tubers and debris to agricultural land. This includes managing and limiting waste used as livestock feed.
  • Segregate potatoes in storage-each field should be stored separately.
  • Plant cover crops when fields are not in use to prevent wind and water from moving soil.
  • Keep hedgerows, sod barriers or sod strips between fields and along highways to provide a physical barrier to soil movement.
  • Do not use common headlands, farm roads and public roads as turning areas.

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