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Potato wart found in PEI, shuttering potato seed shipments


December 8, 2020
By Fruit and Vegetable

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On Nov. 27, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has recently confirmed the presence of potato wart (Synchytrium endobioticum) in two fields on a farm in Prince Edward Island (PEI), according to preliminary report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organizations (UN FAO) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). As a result, the United States has closed its borders to PEI potato seed shipments.

Potato wart is a regulated quarantine pest in Canada that reduces yield and can make potatoes unmarketable. The CFIA has placed the two infected fields under quarantine and is carrying out official control measures under the authority of the federal Plant Protection Act and Plant Protection Regulations, and as part of Canada’s Potato Wart Domestic Long-Term Management Plan.

Measures include:

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  • surveillance;
  • controlling the movement of equipment, tubers, plant material and soil; and
  • cleaning and disinfecting machinery to prevent spread of the pest.

Potato wart is not currently known to be present in the U.S., so stringent prevention measures are taken whenever the disease is found in an area from which the U.S. imports seed potatoes. PEI has unfortunately had several fields present with potato wart since it was first discovered on the Island in 2000.

The CFIA, the PEI government and PEI industry associations are working together collaboratively to control this pest. The Potato Wart Domestic Long-Term Management Plan was established after an initial finding of potato wart in PEI in 2000 in order to respond to detections of the pest and to prevent trade disruptions. In accordance with IPPC principles and standards for determining pest status, potato wart is considered to be present but not widely distributed in Canada and is under official control.

In response to this new discovery of potato wart in PEI, U.S. National Potato Council’s CEO, Kam Quarles, issued the following statement:

“The National Potato Council supports CFIA’s immediate action to stop all PEI seed shipments into the United States and are working with our state potato organizations to inform U.S. growers who may be intending to source seed from PEI for the upcoming year. We have been advised that no seed from the identified areas has been shipped to the United States in four years. However, we are working closely with USDA (United States department of agriculture) to monitor recipients of seed in years past out of an abundance of caution.

“We are in communication with APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) regarding CFIA’s ongoing survey work to comprehensively determine the level of threat within Canada and are also urging CFIA to prohibit all domestic seed shipments out of PEI to prevent spread within Canada until they can confirm no other farms have been jeopardized.

“NPC appreciates the rapid response of CFIA and APHIS to this threat and their commitment that it be addressed based upon the best available science relating to this destructive disease.”