Tuberworm reappears in Basin potato fields

Mitch Lies/Capital Press Oregon State University entomologist Silvia Rondon checks a trap at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center for tuberworm moths. Rondon said she's finding high numbers of tuberworms this summer.


Capital Press

With concern escalating about zebra chip, an entomologist is worried that potato growers are overlooking another pest that can cause severe crop loss.

Oregon State University Extension entomologist Silvia Rondon is advising growers to keep an eye out for tuberworm.

"Everybody is paying attention to the psyllids," Rondon said, "and they could have a big surprise.

"I'm seeing the highest numbers of potato tuberworms than I've seen in years," she said.

The tuberworm, which caused millions of dollars of crop loss in the mid-2000s, has flown under the radar in recent years, Rondon said.

She is concerned that growers aren't watching tuberworm moth counts as closely as they should.

"Pay attention to your numbers," Rondon said. "We don't want to happen what happened in 2004 and 2005."

Trap counts of tuberworms aren't as high as in 2004 and 2005, she said, but because she is catching multiple moths per week, she is worried the pest could reappear in larger numbers this year.

Rondon said she has fielded two phone calls from growers with tuberworm damage and catching numbers well above treatment threshold levels at areas around the basin.

"If you have more than eight to ten tuberworms per trap per week, you could have potential damage," she said.

Potato psyllids, which vector zebra chip, are top-of-mind for Columbia Basin growers as they enter harvest season, Rondon said.

South Korea recently shut off potato shipments from Oregon, Washington and Idaho because of the disease.

But the tuberworm caused millions of dollars of crop loss in the mid-2000s, she said, and could do so again this year.

"Pay attention to your traps," she said.

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