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Producer Guide to the National Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard for Potato Growers
A Guide to Developing Your Farm Biosecurity Plan

3. Understanding the Concepts: Plant Health Management

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Plant Health Management includes all activities on your farm that focus on the prevention, monitoring, and management of pests and diseases. By working through this section, you may become aware of opportunities to enhance the current level of plant health that may be incorporated easily into your farm biosecurity plan.

Target Outcome:

A plant health management plan is established and implemented.

3.1 Prevention Management Practices

Target Outcome:

Seed potatoes and other crop inputs (e.g. fertilizer, manure) are sourced and managed to minimize the introduction and spread of pests and diseases.

Maintaining a high level of plant health on your farm is best achieved by taking a preventative approach to managing diseases and pests, and is the fundamental basis of on-farm biosecurity.

Considerations for Prevention Management Practices:

  • Follow good sanitation practices, such as regular cleaning and disinfection of farm equipment. Clean and disinfect seed handling and processing equipment (i.e. seed cutters, conveyors, diggers, harvesters, and planters) between seed lots. 
  • Plant certified or higher-generation seed that has been post-harvest tested and procured from a known and reliable source.Footnote 2
  • Develop a relationship with your seed suppliers to become familiar with their operations (i.e. crop production and farm management practices). Ask seed suppliers about the biosecurity measures implemented on their farm.
  • Rotate potatoes regularly with crops that do not host the same pests and diseases. Longer rotations reduce some pest and disease pressure and risk. 
  • Ensure that seed used for the production of rotational crops is certified or cleaned and free of weeds and soil.
  • Use pest- and disease-resistant varieties where possible.
  • Apply fungicides preventively and according to disease risk. Insecticides are applied according to pest risk as determined by field scouting and economic thresholds, if available.
  • Establish strategies to control weeds and volunteer plants. Use cover crops to control weeds and to reduce soil movement by erosion.
  • Implement a pesticide-resistance management strategy, including the rotation and/or tank mixing of pesticides from a chemical group with a different mode of action.  
  • Ensure that staff is trained and knowledgeable of potato pests and diseases, and crop production practices. The training includes awareness of federal, provincial, and municipal regulations pertaining to potato production.
  • Consult a professional agronomist or other professional, as required.
  • Establish on-farm compost and management programs, and comply with existing regulations and guidelines.  Source and manage manure, compost, or other soil amendments to minimize the introduction and spread of crop pests.

3.2 Surveillance

Target Outcome:

A surveillance program is developed and implemented for early detection, identification and control of pests and diseases.

The Surveillance Program should designate trained personnel to conduct scheduled in-field scouting and monitoring for pests and diseases. Early detection provides the greatest opportunity to successfully manage, contain, and minimize the damage that can be caused by pests and diseases.

Considerations for Surveillance:

  • Designate farm personnel to conduct the Surveillance Program after receiving training on scouting methods, pest and disease identification, and application of economic thresholds, if available.
  • Begin scouting at the start of the season and continue on a regular basis.  The frequency may need to be adjusted as required, based on pest and disease pressures.
  • Maintain accurate surveillance reports that record the populations of pests and diseases that are present (including absence), and other crop-health indicators such as fertility and moisture conditions.
  • Consider the latest information from pest and disease alerts for your area, modifying your surveillance program accordingly.
  • Refer any unusual, unidentified pest or disease that is detected to extension personnel, a professional agronomist, or a diagnostic laboratory for identification.

3.3 Response Plan

Target Outcome:

A response plan is developed and ready for implementation to effectively contain and control pest and disease outbreaks.

Identifying a pest or disease outbreak via regular monitoring allows for early implementation of the Response Plan, and aims to minimize the impacts on your farm and on neighbouring operations. The Response Plan should define responsibilities of farm personnel and establish procedures to contain, manage, and control the pest or disease outbreak.

Considerations for a Response Plan:

  • Designate farm personnel to review the surveillance reports, having the authority to activate the Response Plan based on the information provided.
  • Ensure that efficacious management and control options, if applicable, are readily available for immediate use once a pest or disease outbreak is detected.
  • Immediately implement containment measures to prevent the spread within the farm and to neighbouring farms. Containment may require that infested fields be immediately isolated in terms of the movement of equipment and people to prevent the spread of the pest or disease.
  • Designate any infested area as a Restricted Zone, and implement strict containment measures.
  • Ensure contact information for the CFIA and/or provincial ministry of Agriculture officials is readily available if a quarantine pest or disease is identified or suspected. Federal (and occasionally provincial) law requires the reporting of quarantine, and regulated non-quarantine pests and diseases.
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