Extension Funded for Continued Potato Blight, Pest Prevention Research

Contact: Jim Dill, (207) 581-3879; James Dwyer, (207) 764-3361

ORONO — University of Maine Cooperative Extension researchers have received renewed U.S. Department of Agriculture Funding of $432,000 for potato late blight and pest management research and education for 2010.

The program is overseen by co-principal investigators Jim Dill, an Extension pest management specialist in Orono, and James Dwyer, a crops specialist in the Aroostook County Office. Funding for the program has been ongoing since 1994, except for 2007, when the funding was discontinued but brought back at the request of potato farmers with whom Dill and Dwyer worked. Support for funding has come from the Maine Congressional Delegation, with Senator Susan Collins leading the efforts. As many as 30 undergraduate students have worked in the program monitoring fields from Palmyra to Fort Kent for signs of late blight fungus or pest infestations.

“In 2009, we saved the industry $26 million through reduced pesticide applications, better timing of applications, by reducing pests or avoiding pests,” Dill says. One properly timed crop application can save hundreds of thousands of dollars, “and that more than pays for the grant itself,” he says.

The program also works with farmers to protect potato fields from late blight disease throughout the state.