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My crop of early potatoes in containers has been decimated . They look like a mouse has been chewing on them with good sized potatoes chewed in half but they were too deep for mice to reach and no sign of the surface soil being disturbed. Worm of some sort ? Any suggestions?

  • You have to send pictures of the leaves and those potatoes, please. What animals are familiar in your area? Rabbits, voles, rats, ground squirrel, deer, feral pig? If you could spread some sand on top of the ground around a potato, smooth it very well so we could see tracks. Also take pictures of any poop. Potatoes are part of the nightshade family and leaves/green skinned potatoes are poisonous. What other plants are near? Have they been eaten? Interesting!! – stormy Jun 20 '17 at 18:07
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insects that eat both tuber and leaves

There must be an insect that feasts on both the tuber and the leaves. Too poisonous for animals, generally. With no sign of digging I went out to look up the best culprit (s).

When you are able to send pictures we'll be able to ID. Do not do any pesticide until we and you are able to ID.

I'm down to cut worms. These I am very familiar and just ONE can do major damage. A cut worm is a big fat insect that when disturbed curls into a ball. It comes out at night to feed, stays in the soil, shallowly, during the daytime. This would be a good ID because there will be only a few and you should be able to go out at night with a flashlight, see them feeding and using scissors, cut them in half. Their guts will be bright green. If you knock them down they will curl into the recognizable curl.

During the day they might be out and hidden under a leaf or debris or chunky bark mulch. Dig around the base of your potato plants. You'll easily see these big fat caterpillar insects. Cut in half, sigh.

If this is your destroyer, you are lucky. No pesticide at all is necessary. Just a few nights playing detective and you'll be good to go. Unless you begin to find baby cut worms. Pesticide is off limits with potatoes if this culprit is eating your shallow potatoes. If only the top growth/leaves are being eaten we could discuss that, once the ID is far more certain.

Collect any and all beetles, insects, larva, grubs or 'worms'. Take pictures.

Next year, you will not plant any of the potato family; peppers, tomatoes, egg plant...in the same area. Not for at least 2 years. If you have found 'eggs' please send a picture or at least describe what they looked like. Just ONE egg will be a major problem. This is the reason all plants are rotated. Not every other year but at least 2 year intervals. Once we figure the culprit, we can also talk about 'trap' crops, row cloth for treatment/management.

Depending on space, you might need to plant potatoes, tomatoes, etc. in pots with sterile potting soil and go vertical. Go out at dark every few hours with your flashlight. It should be fairly easy to figure out who the culprit is eating potatoes and leaves. Again, what other plants are nearby? Have fun!

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