Minnesota Garlic Crop Wiped Out
I am not an expert on plant diseases and pathogens, but this is what I have learned so far. I gratefully welcome any corrections, additions, or expert input regarding this subject.
The Minnesota boutique garlic industry was devastated this year by a disease that has been identified as "Aster yellows". It is a phytoplasma that is carried by leafhoppers, and is introduced into a plant when the leafhopper feeds. Garlic plants are normally not affected because the leafhoppers generally prefer other types of plants. Because of the mild winter the garlic sprouted earlier than usual, and the leafhoppers migrated earlier than usual. There was little else to feed on at the time of their arrival so the leafhoppers fed on the garlic and infected it with the Aster yellows disease.
The disease crippled or destroyed most of the garlic crops here. This is apparently a native disease, not an introduced one, that exploded this year due in large part to the extraordinarily mild winter of 2011-2012. Most of the commercial boutique garlic growers in Minnesota lost everything, including what would have been used for seed stock, so they will now be starting over from scratch. Most likely some growers will quit the business entirely.
I had been expanding my crop over the last five years with the intention of going into the garlic business myself. I too lost everything - 10,000 plants - which included my seed stock for next year.
Even though I personally do not subscribe to the theory of anthropogenic global warming, I must admit this problem may turn out to be a result of a long term climate change and thus may recur or be here to stay. Hopefully I am wrong about this - time will tell.
To the wonderful members on GW whom I have traded garlic with in the past, I thank you for all the nice trades but I obviously will not be trading any garlic or bulbils this year or in the near future, possibly never again if the disease shows its ugly face again next year. If it does reappear, then I am done growing garlic for good.
If and when I do trade again, all my garlic will be tested and proven disease-free through the University of Minnesota agricultural extension, or I will not do trades. I also will only be trading my proven disease-free garlic for other garlic that has been tested and proven to be disease-free. I know this will eliminate trading garlic with most people on GW, but that is the way it will have to be in order for me to protect my crops, my soil, and my business.
P.S. Anyone who grows garlic in any amounts should also make themselves fully aware and informed of Garlic Bloat Nematode (GBN). It is a new scourge that is crossing the United States and Canada via infected seed bulbs - it can unwittingly be passed on to new locations through online garlic trades such as those that occur on GardenWeb and other online trading sites. In my opinion this disease is far worse than Aster yellows, with the ability to contaminate the soil for years thus decimating entire garlic growing regions and destroying many livelihoods. Everyone who grows garlic in any amount should be educating themselves on this issue.
Here is a link that might be useful: Aster yellows