Two damaging diseases that have the potential to wipe out garlic crops appear to be on the rise in Maine. The stem nematode and allium white rot have been reported at several garlic farms in the state. The stem nematode is a microscopic parasite that burrows into the seeds and stems of garlic plants and lays eggs. Upon hatching, the nematodes feed on the garlic, killing the plant and rendering it inedible.
Allium white rot is more devastating. A fungal growth that kills the seed stock, allium white rot has the potential to destroy entire crops for decades. While the infected garlic plants can still be safely eaten, without the seeds that can sustain a new crop the infection is particularly devastating to farmers.
Both of these pathogens appear to have been spread from outside the state. Both the nematode and white rot are widespread problems that routinely devastate garlic crops in New York, California, and even Canada. Some experts believe that they were spread from stock shipped from out of state.
Both pathogens have already damaged garlic crops in the state. A local organic farm has had to destroy its garlic crop and replace beds and soil to prevent spreading the fungus. Researchers funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are looking into potential treatments.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer