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Potato Experts Evaluate Nematode Growth

It’s a hot potato issue.

Idaho potatoes are still at the discussion table five years after a rare parasite outbreak threatened crops in Bonneville and Bingham counties.

Now growers and the United States Department of Agriculture’s brightest minds are evaluating how well they have eradicated potato cyst nematodes from Idaho fields.

From all reports, things are looking very positive for local growers. The cysts have not spread.

Idaho Potato Commission President Frank Muir said the state has met and exceeded all milestones in the program to eliminate those pesky nematodes.

Stephanie Mickelsen has been farming potatoes for 25 years.

Although her farm is “nematode-free,” she’s watched her neighbors struggle with infected crops.

“It’s a life-changing event for them. It’s a lot of stress, a lot of worry and a lot of anxiety, until they can figure out what path to use to move forward in their operation,” said Mickelsen.

That path has been a five-year program developed by the USDA to squash out the cysts that can severely reduce potato yields, if left untreated.

“It does appear that PCN is being eradicated, and so we’re very hopeful as we look to the future,” said Muir.

Muir said no more than twelve fields on the border of Bonneville and Bingham counties have tested positive for the pests during that time.

This has everyone from the USDA to growers like Mickelsen breathing a huge sigh of relief, and hoping for a better five years to come.

“There’s a lot of hope for the farmers because as everybody says, farmers are the eternal optimists,” said Mickelsen.

David Kaplan, with the USDA, said the government is interested in protecting the quality of its product globally.

Idaho potatoes have a starchy, but solid reputation to uphold.

The potato review process will last until Thursday of this week.

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