(Sept. 1) A new protocol for managing potato cyst nematodes in Idaho should keep the pests from spreading and help convince trade partners that Idaho spuds are safe, officials predict.

On Aug. 28, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service announced regulations that will restrict the movement and handling of potatoes in a 10,000-acre area in Bingham and Bonneville counties.

Those two counties have 1.1% of Idaho potato acreage, 3,500 acres out of 328,000.

Potato cyst nematodes, which don’t hurt humans or potatoes but can cause devastating yield damage if left untreated, were found in two Bingham County fields this year. Out of 8,000 soil samples that have been taken, the pests have only been found in two samples, said Frank Muir, chief executive officer of the Idaho Potato Commission, Eagle.

The two Idaho findings represent the first appearances of potato cyst nematodes in the U.S. The pests are common in the Netherlands and also have been found in New Brunswick, Canada.

Thirty-five growers grow potatoes on 3,500 acres in the 10,000-acre restricted area, said Wayne Hoffman, a spokesman for the Idaho agriculture department. Under the protocol, they will be required to submit samples to inspectors to ensure their fields are free of potato cyst nematodes.

About 25% of the fields in the restricted area have already been tested, Muir said, and he was optimistic the rest could be tested by the end of the crop year. Neither the pests nor the new regulations will affect domestic supplies of Idaho potatoes this year, he added.

Hoffman was optimistic the protocol would help convince trading partners that Idaho potatoes were safe for importing. In April, after the nematodes that were later traced to one of the Bingham County fields were first found in a processing plant, Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea banned imports from Idaho.

Muir said officials from Japan and Canada had visited Idaho in late August and were pleased with the progress Idaho and APHIS had made on the issue, but he could not predict when export markets might be reopened.