Second Round of Potato Wart Confirmed in North America


For the second time in less than a year, the North American potato industry got news that nobody wanted to hear, a second detection of the devastating “potato wart” disease, found in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.

National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles says it was first discovered in seed potatoes, but studies were inconclusive, so trade was resumed. “Well now, just seven months later, they’ve notified the U.S. again that they have potato wart. This time in processing fields in PEI.”

The new finding, Quarles says raises serious concerns. “I think, when they couldn’t determine the source of the infection last year, and then they had another detection, in a totally different set of fields and totally different type of potatoes going into a different part of the supply chain, I think it raised a substantial amount of concern for the Canadian authorities, as well as the USDA.”

Quarles says Secretary Vilsack and USDA jumped on this aggressively. “They went to the Canadians and said, it’s appropriate to pause exports of all kinds. Last time it was seed, this time it’s processing, so they said, we need to pause all exports for a period of time in order to get their arms around the disease.”

Quarles says we need to learn more. “I think the immediate step that CFIA is going to take is to try and figure out exactly how widely the disease has spread. These detections occurring so close to each other is not a good sign that things are under control and I think everybody kind of recognizes that.”

The hope, Quarles says is to positively identify where the potato wart is as he says, “it’s just too big of a threat to not take dramatic action.”