Still no late blight in area spuds, but still a concern
Area potato growers continue to avoid a new outbreak of late blight. But it's too early to declare victory in this year's battle against the potentially devastating crop disease.
Though no new cases of late blight have been reported in North Dakota or Minnesota, it will remain a threat until roughly Labor Day, says Gary Secor, a North Dakota State University plant pathologist who specializes in potatoes and sugar beets.
"I'm optimistic, but realistic, too," he says, noting the crop disease has appeared late in the growing season in recent years.
The new weekly report from the NDSU Potato Blightline finds no reported cases of late blight in North Dakota or Minnesota. The highly contagious fungus - which caused the disastrous Irish potato famine in the 1840s and can hurt yields and quality - has been a concern recently in Minnesota and North Dakota. Late blight fares best in cool, wet conditions, which have occurred unusually often in recent years.
The Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota is the nation's leading producer of red potatoes and the only region that produces in volume for the chip, fresh, seed and process markets.
Weather conditions in the region this summer haven't been as conducive to late blight, which has helped hold down the disease, Secor says.
"And (area potato) growers have really stepped up" to fight it, he says.
Still, late blight has been found this summer on potatoes elsewhere in the country, including Michigan, a painful reminder that the disease hasn't gone away, Secor says.
North Dakota and Minnesota potato growers are encouraged to apply a protective fungicide and to scout fields for late blight, concentrating on areas that are wet longer.
Growers also are urged to send samples of suspect potatoes to NDSU for testing.
Syngenta Crop Protection sponsors the NDSU Blightline, a hotline that collects local weather data to forecast the occurrence and spread of late blight in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.
For more information on the NDSU Blightline, click here. Click applications on the left-hand side and then click the potatoes drop-down box.