(June 20) Two months after two potato cyst nematodes turned up in soil from a processing facility, the pests in mid-June were traced to a 45-acre field south of Idaho Falls.

Despite the confirmation of the pest in a field — a first for the U.S. — the Idaho Potato Commission, Eagle, continues to hold out hopes for renewing exports to Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea, which cut off trade the third week of April when the nematodes were first found in the processing soil. Japan also banned potatoes from all other states.

Commission president Frank Muir said trading partners in Japan and Mexico are eager to receive Idaho potatoes.

While state officials continue trade talks, about two dozen investigators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture are focusing on the small field to determine the source of seed potatoes used to grow last season’s crop.

They are also sampling soil from nearby fields and checking farm equipment to see if the nematodes have spread, said Wayne Hoffman, special assistant to the director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

“I think there’s still a lot we have to understand about how this happened and where it came from,” Hoffman said.

The investigation initially focused on two other fields based on records at the processing facility, but when more than 2,500 samples turned up negative, APHIS began looking at fields that sent potatoes to the facility on the same day, Muir said. It’s possible the dirt sample had been miscoded, leading investigators down the wrong path.

Hoffman said “numerous” soil sample turned up positive from the 45-acre field. State and federal officials aren’t releasing the name of the grower or the exact location of the field, which is in northern Bingham County. Muir said the grower has planted grain in the field.

John Keeling, executive vice president of the National Potato Council, Washington, D.C., said the industry is working to secure money from the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp., which helps support farm income and prices. That money would be used for long-term monitoring programs to ensure the potato cyst nematodes have been contained.

“You’ve got the nature of an emergency, so we think it’s appropriate (Commodity Credit Corp.) funds are utilized,” Keeling said.

He referred to the finding of golden nematodes in a Long Island, N.Y., field in 1941. Although the USDA designates the pest as under “official control,” growers there follow specific guidelines to contain the nematodes.

“You have to look at the golden nematode situation as a template for the activities that are likely to be necessary (in Idaho),” Keeling said. “We have a management plan designed to maintain it in the fields and conduct regular surveys in the fields around it to determine that it is in fact contained.”