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All is not golden for producers affected by nematode

It wasn't what they were expecting.


November 14, 2007
By Margaret Land

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8aWhile some media reports suggest potato growers from the Saint-Amable area
of Quebec, where golden nematode was discovered last summer, are 'content' with
the $5.4 million compensation package announced by the federal government in
early December, the group of affected growers is 'not entirely satisfied' and
is still analyzing the offer.

Under the announced package, $2 million will be provided through a new Golden
Nematode Disaster Program and the Plant Protection Act. It is expected these
funds will assist producers with the cost of potato disposal, extraordinary
costs not covered by existing programs and participation costs in renewal programs.
The additional $3.4 million will come through the Canadian Agricultural Income
Stabilization (CAIS) program and through Renewal programs.

Federal Agriculture Minister, Chuck Strahl announced the assistance package
December 7, 2006, during a speech to the annual congress of Quebec's Union des
Producteurs Agricoles (UPA). "These new funds will directly help producers
with the unforeseen costs of dealing with this disaster," he said during
the announcement.

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According to UPA president Laurent Pellerin, there is some question as to whether
any of the announced aid is actually new. "This is just recycling money
that already exists," he stated during a news conference, adding that no
compensation has been announced addressing the thousands of pounds of contaminated
potatoes currently in storage in Quebec, estimated to represent a loss of about
$9.1 million to the province's growers. "That amount has to be paid."

Also missing from the announcement was any assistance to deal with the long-term
effects the golden nematode infestation will have on the Saint-Amable farming
community.

Currently, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has imposed a regulated
area of about 12,500 acres (4500 hectares) around the municipality of Saint-Amable
and a small amount of the surrounding area. Under the conditions of the regulated
area, no plants or plant parts with soil, machinery with soil, and potato tubers
with soil are allowed out of the area without special certification. Under the
Plant Protection Act, no potatoes, tomatoes or eggplants can be planted within
the area and the movement of potatoes for planting within, out of and/or into
the area is also restricted. Vegetables, such as carrots and radishes, can leave
the regulated area but must be cleaned of all soil or have been grown on land
not exposed to golden nematode. As well, all farm machinery must be cleaned
and authorized by a CFIA inspector before it can leave the area.

According to the CFIA, it is expected the restricted area will be in place
'for many years' in light of the fact golden nematode can persist in the soil
for decades.

In late October, a contingent of potato producers from Quebec and the affected
area met with the federal Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to
explain the effect the golden nematode issue is having on their industry and
livelihoods. Among them was Philippe Gemme, a farmer from the Saint-Amable area
and president of AMA-Terre, an organization formed by producers within the regulated
area. As he explained to the committee, with the discovery of golden nematode
most likely meaning the end of potato production in the area, many of the affected
farming families are struggling to deal with their present circumstances and
their future.

"September 27, 2006 was one of the hardest days of my life," Gemme
told members of the standing committee. "I had to announce to my region's
producers… that there would be a regulated area within Saint-Amable, that
their lives would be turned upside-down and that our region's economy would
be severely affected.

"But that's not all. There are also extensive consequences on the youth
who were here and ready to become the next generation of producers. Most of
our children studied at the Institut de Technologie Agroalimentaire (ITA), where
they underwent agricultural training. They were ready to take over our businesses.
How can we tell them that their future is no longer here, in the fields where
they grew up? How can we tell them that they will have to farm other crops,
or even take up another profession altogether? How can we encourage them when
their dreams are crumbling?"

He pulled no punches with the committee as he described his thoughts on the
federal ministerial order that resulted in the restrictions on the Saint-Amable
area. "On October 13, a minority of Quebec producers was unequivocally
sacrificed in order to lift the US embargo," he stated. "The Canadian
government strongly negotiated these conditions so as to lift the USDA restrictions,
while producers in Saint-Amable and the surrounding area were set aside in order
to restart the Quebec economy, without negotiating short-term financial assistance.

"We are facing a veritable disaster." The president of the Federation
des Producteurs de Pommes de Terre du Quebec, Pierre Chouinard, also urged the
standing committee to provide both short-term and long-term assistance programs
to the affected potato producers and provide fair market compensation for any
stored crop, which the Quebec golden nematode advisory committee recommends
should be destroyed. "There is nowhere in Quebec that can process crops
from Saint-Amable, which were originally intended for other markets," he
explained.

"Processors asked to take these potatoes must comply with a series of
measures governing waste and wastewater management, which they don't want to
do," added Clement Lalancette, director general of the Federation des Producteurs
de Pommes de Terre du Quebec. "Simply put, they don't want these potatoes."

In early December, Quebec's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced
a $500,000 aid package for the affected growers. Under the free loan program,
potato farmers can receive $400 per hectare cultivated in 2006 while greenhouse
or nursery stock growers are eligible to receive $800 per cultivated hectare.
The maximum assistance allowable is $50,000 per farm. -30-

Federal assistance to
producers affected by golden nematode

The federal government is committing $5.4 million in assistance to producers
affected by golden nematode. This includes:

  • $2 million available under the Plant Protection Act and Golden Nematode
    Disaster Program, and
  • $3.4 million through the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program
    and through renewal programs.

The assistance package under the Plant Protection Act and Golden Nematode Disaster
Program includes three components: compensation for disposal of potatoes, support
for extraordinary costs and renewal programs.

Compensation for disposal of potatoes
Producers will receive assistance for the cost of disposing of potatoes from
both affected and non-affected fields. Producers must have a certificate from
the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that shows the volume of potatoes to be
disposed. The payments are as follows:

  • up to one cent per pound or $1.00 per hundredweight for potatoes from fields
    that have tested positive. This payment is provided under the Plant Protection
    Act.
  • 0.6 cent per pound or $0.60 per hundredweight for potatoes from fields that
    have tested negative for golden nematode. This represents the federal share
    of compensation.

Support payments for extraordinary costs
A per hectare payment will assist producers with extraordinary costs not covered
under existing programs. Producers will receive the following payments:

  • up to $769 per hectare for potatoes,
  • up to $600 per hectare for nursery and greenhouse crops. Producers will
    receive an initial payment of 90 percent of the per hectare payment, and a
    final payment based on available funding.

Renewal programs
Producers will have access to business planning advice and services through
the Farm Business Assessment (FBA) and the Specialized Business Planning Services
(SBPS) under the Canadian Farm Business Advisory Services. Under this initiative,
producers will be reimbursed for 60 percent of their share of the eligible costs
of participating in the FBA and SBPS programs. Governments continue to pay their
respective share of the cost for renewal programs. -30-

Golden nematode: What is it?

Golden nematode, Globodera rostochiensis, is one of two forms of potato
cyst nematode, which is a parasite of the family Solanaceae. Potatoes
are the most important host plant, followed by tomatoes and eggplant.

Biology
The cyst of the nematode, which is the protected resting stage, contains eggs
that are stimulated to hatch once they become close to the roots of a host plant.
After hatching, the resulting larvae undergo several stages – the infective
stage occurs within the soil while the maturing stages occur within the plant
root. After entering the host plant's root, usually at the growing point, the
larvae become sedentary.

The females become rounded, like a sack, with their posterior protruding from
the root. Fully mature females can be seen as tiny white objects along the root.
Fully mature males migrate back into the soil and roam about, mating with the
embedded females. After copulating, the male dies. Fertilized females swell
up and die as the eggs develop within their bodies.

After death, their body walls harden and darken to protect the eggs, forming
the cyst. A new cyst may contain as many as 500 eggs and can persist in the
soil for more than 20 years, awaiting the roots of a host plant.

Infestation symptoms
Symptoms of attack by golden nematode are not specific and are not a reliable
means of identification. Patches of poor growth generally occur with yellowing,
wilting and death of foliage. Potato tubers may be small. On heavily infested
plants, the cysts are clearly visible with the naked eye on the roots. -30-

Golden nematode can be managed
through biological control

New York State is no stranger to the effect the discovery of golden nematode
can have on a potato industry.

In 1941, a potato farm in Hicksville, Long Island became the location of the
first discovery of golden nematode on US soil. In 1969, a second area in Upstate
New York was also placed under quarantine in a bid to prevent the spread of
the soil pest.

For years after the discovery of the nematodes, the only way of controlling
it was through soil fumigation, using products such as Telone, at rates as high
as 90 gallons per acre. Eventually, the groundwater in the affected areas was
contaminated by the soil fumigants.

Dr. Bill Brodie, a nematologist and professor with Cornell University, decided
to search for a biologically based method for controlling golden nematode. He
had worked with plant breeders and potato specialists at Cornell in the past
to develop potato varieties resistant to the pest.

Brodie studied the biological aspects of golden nematode and discovered a weakness:
nematode eggs can be stimulated to hatch in the presence of the roots of both
susceptible and resistant varieties of potatoes. The pest cannot distinguish
between the two varieties. Building on this is the fact that if no food is present
when the nematode hatches, it will die within a couple of weeks.

Brodie and his colleagues also observed that if nematode larvae enter the roots
of a resistant plant, the juveniles are stimulated to exit the roots. "If
they emerge from a resistant plant, they seem to have lost their taste for potatoes
and very few will re-penetrate another potato plant, either susceptible or resistant,"
stated Brodie during a presentation on his research. "This is one characteristic
of reducing the nematode population."

He also observed that if nematodes try to remain within a resistant plant and
establish a feeding site, the plant cells surrounding the nematodes die. Since
the nematodes cannot feed on the dead cells, they die from lack of food. Any
nematodes that do manage to survive have a diminished capacity for reproduction.
Based on Brodie's studies, cysts on susceptible plants usually contain around
200 eggs while cysts produced on resistant plants contain about 40 eggs.

"This scenario for controlling golden nematode with host-resistant plants
worked well in the laboratory and in greenhouse pots but would it work in the
fields?" asked Brodie.

Of particular concern was what effect the biological control would have on
nematode populations in the soil of the potato hills, which contain about 70
percent of the soil volume, and in the furrows, which contain about 30 percent
of the soil volume. "We believed we could control the nematodes in the
hills, but could we control them in the furrow? In order to effectively manage
the population, we could not allow any nematodes to survive."

The researchers discovered that in the hills, the nematode population rose
and fell as expected, depending on whether a susceptible or resistant crop was
planted. In the furrow, the nematode population always dropped, regardless of
whether the crop was susceptible or resistant.

"We discovered that the hatch-inducing chemical produced by the potato
roots moves through the soil to the eggs in the furrows, but because the nematodes
don't move far enough through the soil, they can't get to the roots and they
die," explained Brodie. "Even with susceptible plants, there is poor
reproduction and the population declines in the furrows."

With this information in mind, the researchers set about developing a multi-year
crop rotation cycle that could work to reduce the number of nematode eggs to
less than 0.2 eggs/cc of soil – a density low enough that the nematodes
could not spread. Through trial and error, a four year production system was
developed which consistently reduced the nematode population to below 0.2 eggs/cc
of soil and maintained it at that level: two years of growing resistant potato
varieties, followed by one year of non-host plant production, followed by one
year of susceptible potato variety production.

According to Brodie, "Infestations are practically non-existent now; they
are lower than they have ever been, even when fumigants were used."

Potato varieties with some golden nematode
resistance

Adora, Allegany, Amey, Andover, Atlantic, Castile, CF
7523-1, Divinia, Elba, Eva, Genesee, Hampton, Hudson, Islander, Kanona,
Keuka Gold, Marcy, NY 79, NY 97, NY102, NY 112, NY 115, NY 118, NY 120, NY 121, NY 123, NY
E11-45, NY L235-4, Penat, Reba, Remarka, Salem, Sandy, Sante, Satina, Yankee Chipper.