The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Garden Tips

April 15, 2011

What's Eating My Potatoes?

The Daily Southerner — What's Eating My Potatoes?

(Family Features) - Potatoes are a fun crop to grow, especially when it comes time to dig for those buried treasures. Unfortunately, there are numerous pests that are also fond of potatoes. Here are the most common and what to do about them.

Colorado Potato Beetle

In spite of the name, these insects can be found in most states. Both the adults, which are yellowish with black stripes, and the larvae, which are dark red or orange with black spots, feed on potato foliage. Check the undersides of leaves for their orange egg masses and rub them off. Dispose of beetles in a can of soapy water. Bacillus thuringiensis 'San Diego' kills the young larvae and it's harmless to beneficial insects, animals, and humans.

Flea Beetle

Flea beetles are tiny, black or brown, and pesky. They chew small holes in plant leaves and can do serious damage fast if they attack young plants. To foil these pests, cover young plants with fabric row covers as soon as you set them out. Keep flea beetle populations low through crop rotation and by maintaining high soil organic matter.

Aphid

These tiny insects can transmit virus diseases. They suck juices from the leaves and stems of potato plants, stunting their growth. Insecticidal soap sprays are an effective control.

Wireworm

Wireworms are the larvae of the click beetle. They're a problem when potatoes are planted in a section of garden that was recently in sod. Fully-grown wireworms are 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches long, slender, and brownish or yellowish white. They tunnel into plant roots and tubers, spoiling them. If your soil is heavily infested, contact your Extension Service for advice on solving the problem.

Diseases

You may have a disease problem in the potato patch one year and none at all the next. The weather plays a big part in the health of a potato crop. Moisture and temperature conditions may trigger certain diseases, which will spread rapidly through the potato rows. But there's no need to simply sit back and let the weather determine the fate of your crop.

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