Winter 2008

On Henry Mall

For potato growers, a good harvest doesn’t always mean a good year. Spoilage in storage claims 8 to 9 percent of the nation’s annual potato crop – a $16 million loss of potatoes in Wisconsin alone. But a new test developed by CALS plant pathologists may help farmers weed out those potatoes destined to go bad before they go into storage lockers. Offered by Pest Pros, Inc., a Wisconsin plant diagnostics company, the test employs a technique known as PCR to screen potato samples for the presence of microbes responsible for diseases such as late blight, pink rot and fusarium. Potatoes shown to have a high risk of spoiling in storage can still be filtered out and processed immediately, explains Zahi Atallah, a postdoctoral researcher who developed the test. “So instead of storing the good with the bad,” he says, “now growers can do triage.”

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