|October 27, 2000
Published in the Guardian (Charlottetown)
By Steve Sharratt
The glorious fall harvest of P.E.I. potatoes has, according
to this story, taken a bit of bruising after the discovery
of a pernicious fungal disease led to the lockdown of a Prince
County farm this week by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Don Love of the CFIA in Charlottetown was quoted as saying
Thursday that, ``This disease poses no threat to human health,
only to the potato. And if properly isolated, it's a very
stationary disease.'' Called the potato wart or canker, it's
a disease that deforms the tuber enough to make the spud unmarketable.
Once it gets in the soil, getting rid of it is no easy
task, especially since the persistent little organism has
a lifespan of 40 years or more. Love was cited as declining
to reveal the hot spot location, but estimated the area
of investigation comprises less than an acre on a farm in
western P.E.I. The farm is now under a prohibition order
and a full- blown quarantine of neighbouring farms and crops
is not expected. However, the story says, the discovery
of the wart-sprouting fungus might have gone unnoticed if
not for the sharp-eyed producer. As thousands of potatoes
rolled up his harvester, the grower culled out a handful
of the bizarre-looking tubers and became suspicious.
The CFIA has issued a prohibition of movement order on
the farm and is investigating how the first recorded incident
of the disease arrived in Prince Edward Island. The potato
wart is a soil- laden disease and not spread by insects
or wind. The disease is comparative to a condition resembling
elephantiasis, the human deformity suffered by John Merrick
and chronicled in the movie The Elephant Man.
Dr. Micheal Hampson, a retired plant pathologist with Agriculture
Canada, was cited as saying its presence on Prince Edward
Island should set off alarm bells, adding, ``It's called
Synchytrium endobioticum. It's a nasty little thing that
is incredibly resistant and can hang around for decades
once it gets in the soil. It is something to worry about.
I'm not trying to alarm, but this disease is very bad for
potato growing. The only commercial removals are to poison
the soil with copper sulphate or burn it out and that's
hardly good for the soil. I'm not suggesting you do it,
I'm just illlustrating how pernicious this organism is.
The only thing you can do is stop growing potatoes on the