Potato rot nematode turns up in Ottawa-area garlic

A two-acre plot in the Ottawa area is under quarantine after a confirmed finding of a yield-damaging potato disease in garlic grown in the field.

While potato rot nematode (PRN) is not a human health risk, it can damage and reduce harvest yields of potatoes and other crops, such as sugar beets, carrots, onions, tulips and garlic.

PRN, a tiny roundworm, is known to cause “significant” damage to the underground parts of host crops, such as their roots, bulbs or tubers — and can affect cross-border and international trade in crops where it appears.

PRN, can which spread through the movement of infested planting material (tubers, rootstock, bulbs), soil (on plants, tools, machinery or vehicles), floods or irrigation, is a regulated quarantine pest in Canada.

The Ontario farm at issue doesn’t produce potatoes or other plant material used for planting on other farms, nor is it in an area located near a seed potato production operation, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a release Thursday.

Unlike some other nematode species, PRN (Ditylenchus destructor) has no protective resting stage and can’t usually survive through extended periods of desiccation. Thus, PRN is usually considered to be an important plant parasite only under cool, moist conditions.

Once established, potato rot nematode is nearly impossible to eliminate because it can survive on a range of other hosts and soil fungi, CFIA said.

Growers can, however, adopt strategies to cut back and manage an affected field’s nematode population over time, the agency said.

PRN has been previously confirmed and is “effectively controlled” on Prince Edward Island, CFIA said. The pest has also already turned up in the U.S. as well as in Africa, Asia, Europe, Mexico, Oceania and South America.

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