September 16, 2019

Grower’s potato crop given OK> Tests for County farmer find harvest disease-free

PRESQUE ISLE — After intensive testing, federal agriculture officials announced Thursday that no disease was found in a load of seed potatoes imported into New Brunswick from southern Aroostook County last spring.

Canadian officials claimed that a load of potatoes from Arthur Shur’s potato farm in Island Falls contained potato spindle tuber viroid, a disease that causes misshapen potatoes. This could render a potato unmarketable.

“We never thought there was anything wrong with Arthur’s potatoes to begin with,” said John Logan, director of advertising and quality control at the Maine Potato Board.

“We were sure that tests that were conducted by independent testing labs would vindicate him,” Logan said.

Shur could not be reached for comment on the announcement. Besides the value of the seed potatoes, the farmer’s reputation also suffered from the adverse publicity.

Agriculture Canada reported in May that the viroid, the smallest part of a virus, was found after testing a sample of the seed potato shipped from Shur’s farm. The shipment, destined to be planted in New Brunswick, was impounded.

At the request of the Maine and U.S. agriculture departments, further tests were conducted by an independant laboratory in Indiana and by a U.S. Department of Agriculture viriod expert.

At the same time, Ag Canada agreed that the shipment was free of potato spindle tuber viroid, but continued to claim that another “unknown” viroid was present in the lot, according to the USDA announcement.

Further testing found no evidence to suggest any disease in the potatoes, acording to the USDA announcement.

“We are pleased that Maine potatoes have been cleared of any association with potato spindle tuber viroid or any other viroid of concern to potato producers,” said Alfred S. Elder, acting deputy administration of plant protection and quarantine with USDA.

The tests showed that Shur’s potatoes were free of any disease and confirmed the Maine potato industry’s worldwide reputation for quality and freedom of disease, Elder said.

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