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Late blight project underway in Ontario

April 29, 2016  By Ontario Potato Board

April 29, 2016, Ontario – The Ontario Potato Board and Dr. Eugenia Banks are collaborating on a two-year project to evaluate late blight management technologies new to Ontario.

The goal of the project is to help growers take late blight management to the next level by using state-of-the-art spore traps placed in potato fields and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology to identify late blight spores before visual symptoms develop in plants. Also, drone technology will be used to validate the performance and effectiveness of spore traps. 

Ontario potato production can be seriously affected by late blight, a devastating disease that can destroy potato fields in a few days if effective fungicides are not applied in a timely fashion. In the past, late blight was sporadic in Canada, but it is now an annual, serious concern for potato and tomato growers in Ontario and other provinces as well. 

The late blight pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, has the ability to produce about 700,000 spores on a single leaf lesion. The spores are disseminated by the wind both within a field and also from farm to farm. Each spore has the potential of initiating infections on potato plants or other hosts such as tomatoes and nightshade weeds. This extremely high spore production is the most important factor involved in the destructive nature of late blight. 

The innovative technologies for spore trapping in potato fields and for spore identification should allow potato producers to manage late blight more effectively and avoid epidemics that could pose a serious threat to provincial potato production. 

Information obtained during the growing season will be shared not only with provincial potato growers but with provincial tomato growers as well. 

This project is funded in part through Growing Forward 2. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of Growing Forward 2 in Ontario. 

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