Wireworms in potatoes

I apologize for the upcoming images. It’s really not possible to make this pretty.

This year, for the first time that anyone in the Derwood Demo Garden remembers, we had an infestation of wireworms in our potatoes.

photo by Darlene Nicholson

Wireworms are the larvae of click beetles. Their primary food plants are grass, grassy weeds, and certain grains, so they most often turn up in gardens that have been recently converted from field, which is definitely not true of our over-20-years-old demo garden. Wherever they came from, they found our potato patch this year, and bored holes in many of the tubers. Some of the damage was superficial, and some looked like this when we opened up the potatoes:

photo by Darlene Nicholson

I’m guessing this is a secondary bacterial or fungal infection that developed after the wireworms penetrated far enough; in any case, it smells awful and makes the potatoes inedible.

We always rotate our crops, so next year we’ll plant potatoes in a different spot, and hope for the best. You can use traps of cut pieces of potato, or carrots, to discover whether an area is infested and remove some of the wireworms, so we’ll try that, and we’ll cultivate this year’s potato patch deeply in fall and more shallowly in spring before planting anything, to bring the worms to the surface. And I’ll try to avoid planting any root crops there.

So far, the wireworms have badly infested our ‘Eva’ potatoes, and prevented our second crop of ‘Yukon Gold’ from growing. They don’t seem to have traveled over to the ‘Shepody’ row, and I hope it stays that way.

Here’s UMD’s factsheet on potato diseases and pests.

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