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Skin blemish defect of potato tubers caused by climate change?

In her emailed newsletter distributed earlier today, Dr Eugenia Banks, potato specialist at the Ontario Potato Board in Canada, addresses a skin disorder/defect found in some Ontario potato fields this season. It is called ‘russeting’.

Dr Banks points out that this physiological skin blemish defect is often confused by buyers as being common scab.  She says the cause of russeting is still unknown.

According to Dr Banks, a potato pathologist in Manitoba, Dr Tracy Shinners-Carnelley (VP, Research & Quality, Peak of the Market) recently obtained funding to try and determine the cause of this problem. 

“Although global researchers  have not determined what causes “russeting” yet, climate change is thought to be a factor,” Dr Banks says.  “Hot, dry summers are more common now. The potato skin is sensitive and blemishes easily.”

Dr Banks warns that potatoes with minor skin blemishes should not end up in cull piles. The potatoes are safe to eat and flavour does not change because of a skin blemish. But, Dr Banks says, “How do you convince buyers of this?”

We republish two pictures below of russeting on tubers in Ontario that Dr Banks sent along. She can be reached at EugeniaBanks@onpotato.ca. Dr Tracy Shinners-Carnelley can be reached at tracy@peakmarket.com. (All pictures on this page credit Eugenia Banks)