Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) Testing

Potato cyst nematode (PCN) is the most important pest of potatoes in the UK, costing the UK potato  industry an estimated £50 million annually.  ADAS offer a competitively priced and accurate assessment of PCN levels to indicate both the level of cyst infestation/100g soil and egg infestation/g soil together with interpretation of these data

  • Potatoes planted in PCN infested soil trigger the hatch of larvae which then invade the potato roots
  • There are two distinct species of PCN and in the absence of a host potato crop they can persist in the soil for over 10 years
  • Integrated pest management strategies should be used to tackle PCN populations
  • Accurate estimates of PCN numbers in the soil will allow you to make more informed decisions about costly nematicide treatments, timing your rotation and purchasing/renting new land.

What you need to know about PCN

There are two distinct species of PCN- the white PCN (Globodera pallida) and the yellow PCN (G rostochiensis) with the former being the most common in the UK.  The cyst is the swollen body of the female nematode and contains 200-600 young nematodes or larvae each within an egg shell.  When potatoes are planted in infested soil their root exudates diffuse into the soil and trigger the hatch of a large proportion of the larvae which then invade the potato roots.  In the absence of a host potato crop a proportion of the larvae hatch each year, escape into the soil and will die. Despite this even after 10 years or more there may be some eggs left unhatched in the cysts.  This ability of PCN to persist in soil for such a long period makes it difficult to control and once present it is usually a case of managing the pest rather than eradicating it.

Managing PCN

Control measures for PCN usually involves the use of chemical nematicides but these are currently under regulatory pressure in the EU.  Both aldicarb (Temik) and 1,3-dichloropropene (Telone) have lost their approval within the last ten years and it seems likely that other currently approved products will also come under scrutiny, not least because the MRL has occasionally been exceeded in recent years.  Ultimately it appears that the range of nematicides available to farmers and growers will only decrease due to increasing regulation. In addition, the EU Sustainable Use Directive is encouraging the use of integrated pest management strategies to reduce reliance on chemical control.  Under these scenarios minimising the use of nematicides can only help to prolong their lifespan but this requires an accurate estimate of the level of PCN infestation.

Minimising reliance on nematicides can save you money.  Nematicides are a particularly costly input at circa £470/ha.  According to the latest pesticide usage statistics approximately 25,000 ha were treated against PCN in 2016 which equates to an industry spend of £11.8 million.  A reliable estimate of PCN infestation has the potential to limit investment on chemical control to those situations where pest levels indicate that it is justified.

To improve management of PCN, growers recognise that they need to extend their potato rotations, for example from six to eight years.  This has required an increase in the total area of land required for potato production. As there is a limited supply of good quality land it has been necessary to include marginal land which yields less well and requires significant cultivation in order to prepare it for potato production.  In order to justify this investment it is vital to know the level of PCN infestation in any additional land which can only be done by soil sampling.

Knowing the level of PCN infestation in your soil is vital for effective management of this pest.  ADAS offer a competitively priced and accurate assessment of PCN levels to indicate both the level of cyst infestation/100g soil and egg infestation/g soil together with interpretation of these data.

Why choose ADAS for PCN testing?

  • Expertise from a business you can trust.  ADAS has been providing reliable PCN assessments for more than 50 years
  • Interpretation of the results from expert nematologists not just numbers
  • Competitive pricing
  • Rapid response – results when you need them
  • Independence, your guarantee of impartiality

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