Equipment/Technology

Spore monitoring program helps Idaho farmers contain potato late blight

The Paul-area late blight outbreak wasn’t much of a story among the state’s potato farmers in 2019. University of Idaho Extension researchers say that fact may be due largely to their new network of 15 spore trappers, strategically placed near Idaho farm fields from Parma through Tetonia, according to a report by Idaho State Journal.

The network — intended to provide growers early warning when important fungal pathogens arrive in the area — was launched in 2017, in participation with industry partners and commodity organizations.

There’s also a spore trapper in Oregon and machines in Washington’s Skagit County and Pasco areas, monitored by Washington State University. Furthermore, UI shares data with Colorado researchers, who run their own spore trapping network.

“We are starting to get known around the world as one of the leaders in doing spore trapping,” said the project’s lead researcher, James Woodhall, a UI assistant professor of plant pathology stationed at the Parma Research & Extension Center. “We’re doing it on a scale that perhaps they’re not doing anywhere else in the world.”

Samples from UI’s spore trappers are laboratory tested weekly. UI is also developing spore trapping applications benefiting production of sugar beets, dry beans, barley, wheat and onions.

Agronomists began searching Magic Valley potato fields immediately upon learning late blight — the devastating fungal pathogen responsible for the Irish Potato Famine — was detected by a spore trapper in August at the Rupert-based Miller Research farm.

Read the full report in Idaho State Journal here