PEI

'Aggressive' wireworm strategy needed for potato farmers

Wireworm is on the minds of P.E.I. potato farmers, many of whom gathered Tuesday to learn about new ways to combat the destructive insect.

Island wireworm species resistant to pesticides that work in other locations

Wireworms, the larval stage of the click beetle, are causing a lot of damage to the P.E.I. potato crop. (W. van Herk/Agriculture Canada )

Wireworm is on the minds of P.E.I. potato farmers, many of whom gathered Tuesday to learn about new ways to combat the destructive insect.

According to the P.E.I. Potato Board, the pest costs the industry at least $6 million per year.

The worm makes holes in potatoes and other crops, rendering them unfit for sale, either fresh or processed.

"It really had quite a bite on us on the 2013 crop. The wireworm is a very tough beast to get under control," said John Ramsay, who operates Oyster Cove Farms Ltd. in Hamilton.

He's trying brown mustard and buckwheat as rotation crops to help control the pest.

Christine Noronha, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says the P.E.I. wireworm species is a 'very good flyer' and is 'spreading everywhere.' (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

More research on those strategies, as well as different insecticides and potato varieties, are being shared by research scientist Christine Noronha from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

"If we don't do this research, there are growers' fields that are so badly damaged that they had to plow the field under. They couldn't even harvest it. That's how badly damaged. And you cannot have that for an industry," said Noronha.

Noronha said more research is needed, particularly on the Island where the wireworm species is different and more resistant to chemicals that work in other locations.

The wireworm, which grows into the click beetle, is spreading and the industry is worried, says Noronha.

"The species we have here is a very good flyer," said Noronha.

"We really have to take control of it now and be aggressive with it because they are spreading everywhere."

Noronha says the main goal is to come up with a strategy that uses a number of tools to supress the harmful pest.

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