United States Senator Charles Schumer of New York during a visit late last week to Cornell University said the potato crop is at risk.
To help lower that risk, the senator announced a commitment in federal funds of $400,000 for Cornell’s Federal Golden Nematode Lab. The funds will be administered through the Agricultural Research Services (ARS) of the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) and pay to help upgrade equipment and facilities.
The lab is 60 years old and used by Cornell scientists and the USDA-ARS to control the possible devastating play cyst nematodes and golden nematodes. It is our front line defense against the terrible infestation, Schumer the minority leader of the Senate said on Friday.
With no intervention, these pests will pose a huge threat to the $65 million New York potato crops and industry across the U.S. The worms are microscopic and feed on the potato plant roots and on other crops, which in turn creates a dramatically smaller yield.
The lab, together with the USDA and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, maintains a quarantine that protects the potato industry of New York, while making it safe for farmers in New York to ship vegetable, such as soybeans as well as root crops like turnips, beets and carrots.
The Cornell Federal Golden Nematode Lab is the only type of research program of its kind in North America with expertise in resistance breeding as well as management of the cyst nematode, said Dean of CALS Kathryn Boor.
Boor added that through monitoring, soil testing and research to develop potato cultivars that are resistance as well as appropriate management strategies for farms, the program has been able to successfully quarantine golden nematodes, a pest which had been present in the U.S. for quite some time.
Schumer has said that the potato industry is an important sector for the economy in upstate New York, with more than 20,000 acres dedicated to crops on over 1,200 farms.
Last year, the state of New York approved $1.2 million for modernizing and renovating the lab at Cornell, which helps farmers and researchers to stay ahead of the pests that learn to adapt to the control measures being used.
The lab collaborates as well with potato breeders at Cornel to develop resistant and high quality potato varieties.