With months of testing yet to be completed, any declaration of PEI being “disease free” is premature
Last week, an advisory panel created in the wake of a political firestorm over the PEI potato wart crisis submitted a report to the Canadian federal government. This panel was made up of individuals from countries who already have potato wart and are attempting to manage it, but no members from countries that are disease-free and seeking to remain that way.
The report declared that while potato wart has been detected 36 times in potato fields throughout PEI, it considers most of the island to be “pest-free.” This statement is counter to the observations of CFIA, USDA APHIS, and the U.S. potato industry.
According to the PEI news outlet Saltwire, Gordon Henry, national manager in the field crops section of the CFIA, said, “The entire Island was part of the ministerial order because potato wart has been found in each of the counties. And having 36 detections means that we have a substantial amount of detections for a pest that we have zero tolerance for.”
Consistent with that statement, in October USDA APHIS released a report indicating that “The full extent of the potato wart infestation in PEI is still unknown but is likely to be larger than currently reported.” NPC CEO Kam Quarles noted that with months of testing yet to be completed by CFIA, any declaration of PEI being “disease free” is premature.
The panel report included a list of recommendations to improve the management of potato wart disease on PEI, including:
- Preventing the planting of potatoes (or other plants for replanting) for a minimum of 20 years in index fields;
- The planting of only resistant potato varieties in buffer zones; and,
- Improving waste management, such as cease using digestate from anaerobic digestions or other waste from processing on agricultural fields.
Henry indicated that CFIA “could not fully commit to implementing the report’s recommendations but said an engagement with farmers and industry has begun.”
“The U.S. potato industry looks forward to working with both governments as testing continues to modernize the management plan, with the singular goal of keeping potato wart out of the United States,” Quarles concluded.