IPM Saves Maine Potato Growers $17 Million
Maine’s Potato IPM Program made great strides in 2008, saving growers $17 million while minimizing pesticide usage. This is big news in a state where potatoes are the top agricultural commodity, valued at more than $500 million.
The savings can be credited both to a network of electronic weather stations across the state, which helps growers gauge whether their crop is threatened by late blight (a fungal disease that spreads in cool, wet weather), and to weekly monitoring for late blight and other pathogens and insects.
The program, coordinated by James Dwyer and James Dill (Univ. of Maine Cooperative Extension) with USDA funds, recommends the timing of fungicide sprays based on the weather data and scouting results. With access to this IPM expertise via a telephone hotline, newsletter, and website, growers spray only when their crop is truly at risk.
The environment is a big beneficiary of this IPM technology: growers attribute their savings to better timing of and fewer pesticide applications on potato crops, which cover nearly 60,000 acres in the state.