While hard to believe, the Late Blight pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s and caused the starvation deaths and forced migration of hundreds of thousands across Europe, is still a major concern in food production worldwide. The fungus-like organism, Phytophthora infestans, is aggressive and can cause disease that can rapidly destroy whole fields of potatoes and tomatoes. This centuries old threat is still with us and causes major concerns for potato growers in Wisconsin each year!
The pathogen can be spread quickly over whole areas by wind movement of its spores from infected source plants. These are either brought into the state as already infected tomato transplants or seed potatoes or can develop locally from un-harvested tubers or crop waste that survive freezing. Because it can spread so rapidly under cool moist conditions, Late blight is considered a ‘community disease’ that can affect both commercial growers and home gardeners alike. Crop fields must therefore be monitored early to detect symptoms and potential disease sources. Growers ensure that seed is disease-free to prevent the introduction of the pathogen into the fields. They control potato volunteers and nightshade weeds that may be infected in and around production fields. And, by WI state law, growers, homeowners and garden centers are required to destroy all disease sources by May 20th before the start of the growing season. (more…)
There is no doubt that our industry is as constantly changing as any other. With the continual rise of technology in our modern age, it is of utmost importance that the agriculture industry keeps up with the new requirements, electronics, and software that help us stay connected to our customers.
With the implementation of PTI (the Produce Traceability Initiative), staying connected to our product – no matter where it may be – is more possible now than ever before. Since the installation of the PTI scanners, printers, and software in many of the packing sheds across the state of Wisconsin, consumers can rest assured that they would be able to trace their potatoes back to the exact field they were grown in, know the day they were planted, harvested, and everything in between. (more…)
Water use is a critical issue in central Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA), as well as its grower members are committed to the judicious use of this most precious resource.
WPVGA formed The Water Task Force in 2009 to bring together resources and expertise to foster the sustainable use of water resources in the Central Sands. The committee was also formed to develop and promote responsible water use practices that will protect the groundwater aquifer of the Central Sands and its associated streams, lakes and wetlands.
The goal of the Wisconsin potato and vegetable growers is to do this in a way that ensures a sustainable agricultural industry for future generations, fosters vibrant rural communities and respects the needs of all its citizens.
The WPVGA Water Task Force has already made remarkable progress in advancing all of its objectives. For example, to increase understanding of the hydrology of the Central Sands, the Task Force has initiated a program to measure groundwater depths in privately-owned irrigation wells across space and time. They have purchased and installed equipment to continuously monitor groundwater in four areas designated as high risk for surface water impacts. They have also commissioned and funded a study by the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey to expand understanding of tunnel channel lakes in high risk areas and their interaction with groundwater–this study has since expanded into a significant modeling project funded by NRCS. (more…)
Many years ago there was a connection between the consumer and the farmer and that connection created a level of trust. Before the days of large national retailers local produce was a way of life and it was likely that you knew the farmer that grew the food that was being sold at your corner grocery store. If you didn’t know him, you knew of him and where he was from.
As retailers grew, so did farms. Instead of selling produce locally the geography of markets expanded, national chains developed distribution centers and produce was shipped further and further away from where it was grown. This expansion created a disconnect between the producer and the consumer despite the fact that the produce was just as healthy and just as good for you.
The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is designed to do many things, but one of the most important is to help foster that connection between where the food is grown and the consumer. By being able to trace food back to its place of birth a consumer has a much higher comfort level with that produce and in the consumer’s mind creates that connection back to the land, which is something we should support and embrace as producers.
Of course there are other practical reasons to embrace PTI, the least of which is quickly becoming mandatory when doing business with larger retailers. Being able to trace produce back to the field level is no longer a luxury. It is quickly becoming a requirement to participate in the marketplace. Growers who resist implementing PTI will ultimately find themselves on the outside looking in and will ultimately have difficulty finding outlets for their product. (more…)
Late blight caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s.
This disease and its related problems caused massive hunger, starvation and poverty, resulting in mass emigration from the region. This disease is still a concern today.
The fungus which caused the Irish potato famine is still active today. It was identified in Portage County just last week. It can cause serious problems for potato, tomato, eggplants and other solanaceous crops today. Phytophthora infestans (“infests”) is the cause of potato late blight. It is a fast moving, community disease that growers, home gardeners and garden center managers must take seriously and properly manage to ensure a healthy, adequate food supply.
There are many concerns for Wisconsin vegetable growers every year whether farmer or home gardener. Weather, growth problems, pests, water, market demand—but one pest problem, foliar or leaf blight, is especially challenging. This can commonly attack tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers. These diseases cause perfectly healthy appearing green plants to break out in brown spots, turn yellow and die prematurely. Many home gardeners run to their local garden center for a remedy. But by the time leaves begin to yellow and the brown spots appear the disease may have progressed to a point where there is no stopping it.
On the farm, vegetable growers face the same threat from foliar blights every year. Potato and vegetable growers in Wisconsin have worked closely with University of Wisconsin researchers for decades, to understand the science behind that makes these blights tick. Through research, we have developed and implemented innovative disease management strategies to both avoid and combat plant disease problems. (more…)