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
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 infected land.''