Farmers trying to protect potatoes from serious disease - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Farmers trying to protect potatoes from serious disease

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PORTAGE COUNTY (WAOW) -

A serious disease has infected a number of crops in Wisconsin, and farmers are trying to prevent it from happening to them.

Late blight, a fungal disease, targets tomatoes and potatoes. In fact, the disease caused the Irish potato famine in the 1850s.

Now it's in Wisconsin.

"The first thing we wanted to know was where it was, how far away from us, which direction, if the wind can blow on it," said Donald Hamerski, who owns a farm in Plover. He says he was worried when he heard blight was in our state.

"The wind will take it, so you have to monitor your field or have someone else monitor your fields," he said.

Owners at Hamerski Farms say they take precautions to protect their more than 1,000 acres of potatoes.

"We spray our crops, every week they get sprayed, get out there pretty religiously," said Hamerski.

Experts say if a small outbreak isn't controlled, it can devastate fields of crops. Wind can held spread the disease causing other plants to be infected. Experts say farmers could lose a lot of money if this happens. That's why Hamerski says he sprays his potatoes.

"We think that we can control it, we're not sure 100 percent on it," said Hamerski. "But they're pretty sure that we can."

Agriculture leaders say checking plants regularly can help prevent blight along with destroying infected plants.

"If you don't catch it, and you put the potato in the bin, it's going to rot and they're just going to keep rotting," said Hamerski. He says he's trying to stay one step ahead so his crop thrives.

Experts say farmers aren't the only ones at risk. Even if you have a small garden, your plants could still get blight.

More information on late blight is available at http://www.plantpath.wisc.edu/wivegdis/index.htm

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