BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture has imposed new temporary rules at the potato industry’s request governing bacterial ring rot, including mandatory reporting of its detection.
The regulations, which took effect Feb. 26 and must be finalized during the next legislative session, also require BRR testing before exporting Idaho potato seed, enact new record-keeping requirements for commercial seed cutting and give ISDA authority to prevent replanting of BRR-tainted seed.
Last season, Idaho experienced a flare-up of BRR, which is highly contagious and financially devastating for growers.
Lloyd Knight, administrator for ISDA’s Division of Plant Industries, said the Idaho Potato Commission requested the rules in January on the industry’s behalf. ISDA has the right to impose temporary rules, with the governor’s approval, when an issue is deemed pressing to the health and safety of crops.
Knight said anyone who fails to report BRR could face up to a $10,000 fine under the state’s Plant Pest Act, though penalties would be imposed only as a last resort.
“The rule is not meant to be punitive when we find ring rot but is meant to allow us to do a traceback,” Knight said, adding commonalities discovered through ISDA investigations should shed light on causes of the problem.
Knight said a few ISDA investigations have already been initiated this spring based on BRR reports.
The temporary rules also require testing of at least 400-tuber samples from Idaho seed lots prior to exportation, though the method of testing isn’t specified.
Idaho Crop Improvement Association has zero tolerance for BRR, rejecting any seed lots in which it’s found as part of certification. The temporary rules give ISDA authority to prevent replanting of seed lots in which BRR is missed during certification but detected through a shipping-point inspection.
ICIA is in the midst of developing its own testing requirements for BRR in seed.
“I believe the new ISDA rule will be an important part of the overall industrywide effort to manage this disease,” said Doug Boze, ICIA executive vice president.
IPC President and CEO Frank Muir said the temporary rules are the result of months of meetings involving IPC, ISDA, processors, fresh growers, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, University of Idaho researchers, ICIA and seed growers. Collectively, Muir believes the temporary rules will go a long way toward minimizing the risk of BRR, while giving the industry a chance to evaluate the regulations and tweak them before they’re finalized.
UI Extension potato pathologist Phil Nolte said the rules are bold and will “shine light on a situation where we haven’t had a light shined before to get a handle on the problem.”
Nolte said BRR symptoms are often latent, and the rules should help seed producers who may have unwittingly spread the disease. But he acknowledged complying with rules may not be easy on those who are affected.
“It’s a good thing, but it isn’t going to be much fun,” Nolte said. “There are going to be some people who will but hurt by this. That’s all there is to it.”