You may be struggling to manage Verticillium wilt in your potato fields and wondering if mustard biofumigation may be of help. At the Canadian Spud Congress on March 23 at 1 p.m. CDT, Zack Frederick, the applied potato research agronomist for MHPEC Inc., will be sharing his research work from Manitoba on this as part of the “Managing Verticillium Wilt in Potatoes with Mustard Biofumigation” session.

Spud Smart spoke with Frederick over the phone ahead of the Congress to get to know him and get a preview of what he’ll be talking about.

Spud Smart (SS): How long have you been working in the potato industry? And how did you start working in it? Zack Frederick

Zack Frederick (ZF): I started working in the potato industry in 2013 in July when I began my doctoral program at Washington State University. It was a research and extension-based appointment. In order to justify the stipend that I was given by combination of university and commissioned funding, I had to work with potato growers from the beginning.

So, starting that summer, I was meeting with growers out in the Columbia Basin, and I was assigned the north area. I was working with growers who were dealing with black top and Verticillium wilt issues.

I started this job working at MHPEC and CMCDC Carberry in 2017 in May. And that was a full-on research program, but still with a large extension component of talking to the community and growers.

SS: What is the Canadian Spud Congress session that you’re taking part in about?

ZF: I should be talking with my colleague Haider Abbas on the evaluation of mustard by a fumigation in potatoes with a goal of economically managing Verticillium wilt in Manitoba. The project is set with a uniquely Manitoban focus on an approach that should be lower impact than full on chemical fumigation like I saw when I was studying it in the United States.

But we have growers that are in a very early Verticillium wilt epidemic that was identified through a five-year field variability study. And in that study, the number one overriding variable across space and time responsible for variable yield was Verticillium wilt.

So, we partnered with a group originally called High Performance Inc., who got their hands on a on a cultivars of mustard called Caliente Rojo. And that was originally bred by the Italian government. And Caliente Rojo comes with a decade’s old pedigree for Verticillium wilt management, but it had an unbelievably specific set of practices that were required in order for it to succeed. And local research that was done throughout the United States and Europe found that that required small tweaks for each individual area to get the most biomass for the effective killing of verticillium.

We started working to do the same kind of management for maximum biomass with minimum input for Manitoba. And that’s something Haider and I have been coupling together for research work in the past couple of years.

SS: What is the number one thing you want attendees to take away from your Canadian Spud Congress session?

ZF: The big thing is that despite the fact that a lot of people in Manitoba and elsewhere, many growers and consultants and agronomists, have tried mustard, it seems to be a process that requires a very specific mustard and a very specific set of protocols in order to succeed. And it’s not necessarily that you have to adopt our practice and our mustard, but you need to make sure that whatever practice and mustard people are using it is experimentally validated. Targeting Verticillium is very tricky because it requires a fairly large dose from the mustard biomass to achieve effective control, and sometimes a field must be biofumigated multiple times to achieve control.

SS: What is your favourite part about being in the potato industry?

ZF: I really like being in this local potato industry because the growers are very open to sharing both their experiences and their information with me and with one another. I haven’t encountered a lot of people that want to keep what they’re doing necessarily secret from the community, which has made extension outreach very easy. Because I see a lot of what I do as an intermediary of information back and forth between different groups and between different people.

To watch this session live register for the Canadian Spud Congress for free.

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