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Specialized testing of seed potatoes give Idaho growers an advantage

Specialized testing of seed potatoes has advanced to the point that it allows farmers to deal with potential problems before they even plant the crop. For example, seed-piece evaluations, which detect diseases and viruses in potatoes, have advanced, Capital Press reports.

That helps soil scientist John Taberna help customers of his Parma, Idaho, commercial laboratory.

“In 15 years, we’ve advanced with the detection limits,” the Western Laboratories owner said. “We can now detect subspecies of a bacteria or a virus.”

Seed-piece evaluations are used to detect Potato Virus Y and Mop Top Virus, for example. PVY can reduce yields by one-third or more, Taberna said. Mop Top can reduce production and quality, and persist in the soil for years.

“On potato tubers, we can detect PVY at much lower levels than before,” he said. “Before, it was either positive or negative.” Amounts of the virus, and its strain, can be determined now through DNA.

University and commercial laboratories have worked to advance detection limits and precision to the extent that the tests can more effectively help growers make decisions on buying and treating seed, planting strategies, water management and other activities, Taberna said.

A test showing a degree of Mop Top may prompt a potato grower to focus planting in a soil type less conducive to its vector, Powdery Scab.

Many growers, unable to buy from their usual supplier, are testing their own commercial potatoes for suitability to replant, Taberna said.

“The seed-piece test tells them if their seed has a chance of finishing without reduction of yields by diseases,” he said.

Read the full article in Capital Press here

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