Scottish expert describes challenges of widespread PCN infestation

Related imageMany farmers in Scotland plant potatoes less often than they once did and anticipate a 10 percent yield loss because of the spread of potato cyst nematodes, Scotland’s chief nematologist says. Jon Pickup shared his country’s PCN woes during a public meeting to underscore the importance of Idaho’s efforts to eradicate the destructive microscopic worms from a roughly 5-square-mile quarantine area of Bingham and Bonneville counties. “You don’t want the situation we’ve got in Europe,” Pickup said. “Pale cyst nematode is spreading and severely limiting our ability to produce potatoes in the United Kingdom, and it will continue to do that until we have more resistant (potato) varieties and those resistant varieties are accepted by the market.” Officials at the Jan. 20 meeting said they’re optimistic about Idaho’s outlook based on testing of new PCN treatment methods to replace methyl bromide, a chemical the program abandoned two years ago due to residual levels found in subsequent crops. Pickup, who participated in an international science review of the U.S. and Canadian PCN management programs, admits he was initially skeptical the outbreak could be contained when Idaho discovered pale cyst nematode in 2007. Pickup now describes Idaho’s program as a remarkable success, though he encourages the spud industry to test for PCN in its other major potato production areas, especially in seed, to keep the pest in check. More