Minn. garlic at risk of Aster yellows disease - New York News

Minn. garlic at risk of Aster yellows disease

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As we settle into late fall, this is the time plant garlic.

"We grow really good garlic in Minnesota," said Jean Peterson, of Peterson's Produce in Delano.

But like many farmers across the state, Peterson had problems with her garlic this year and turned to experts at the University of Minnesota for guidance.

"This is really the first reported case we know of in the US," said Carl Rosen, professor and soil specialist at the U.

Garlic is one of the first plants to pop up in the spring. This year, warm temperatures accelerated spring, and that means leaf hoppers started feeding on garlic statewide -- but those bugs spread a disease called Aster yellows, which killed garlic crops across the state.

"I've been growing it for 15 years now and I've never seen a problem as bad as this," Rosen said.

Lucia's Restaurant in Uptown prides itself on serving locally grown food. Lori Valenziano is the food buyer at Lucia's and noticed locally grown garlic has been harder to find.

"Buying local garlic is a special treat. It was harder this year…and what we were able to buy was more expensive," says Valenziano.

Rosen warns farmers should only plant cloves from healthy, papery white bulbs. Planting discolored cloves could perpetuate the problem into the spring.

The good news is that Rosen says eating the garlic infected with aster yellows won't taste any different and won't make people sick. With the Peterson's Produce started planting garlic this week.

"We are optimistic. We are planting a fraction of the amount we did last year," said Peterson. "Maybe 10 percent and we will see what happens."

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