Some Growers Say Potato Beetle Becoming Intractable Problem
Anecdotal evidence suggests the Colorado potato beetle has increased its range in Estonia, and some farmers say the situation is dire, especially as the state declassified the colorful bug as a dangerous pest in 2011.
With potato fields flowering, ETV reported on one Saaremaa island field where the beetle had not been seen before, but which is experiencing a major infestation.
Officially, the farmers are advised to manually pluck the larvae and repeat every day, and only resort to pesticides for larger infestations.
There are some areas of Saaremaa where the beetle is well-established and can't apparently be eradicated, farmers said.
Aadu Grepp, one farmer, said that beetles could be found on every fourth or fifth stalk in his fields.
"You have to spray with some toxin at the right time to get rid of it. In a couple days, it will eat a plant, leaving just a stalk." He said it had been that bad for two or three years. "The bug hatches from the soil and and there's nothing to do, the only cure is chemicals. There's so many and it will return in a week or so."
Grepp sprays his fields several times a year and said some Leisi growers had stopped planting potatoes.
The areas on Saaremaa affected tend to be on the coasts, as the adult beetle gets an assist from the wind. The biggest potato grower on the island, Guido Lindmäe, who has 22 hectares in the interior, says he yet to see a live beetle.
Opinions very on whether the mainland is worse off. The Crop Research Institute's Luule Tartlan says it is worse, while the Agricultural Board says that the potato beetle has ceased to be considered a dangerous pest as of 2011.