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Hi, Can anyone help identify this pest, if I leave my potato crop in the ground too long these tiny worm like creatures make holes and when dug up they all start to come out it is revolting.   Does anyone know any remedy for them. I do follow a crop rotation plan, although my allotement plot is only small. Thanks for any help. 

BobTheGardener

Hi Daisytwo, There is a pest called potato eelworm, but the worms are minute and need a magnifying glass to see, so it probably isn't that.  I suspect the holes are being caused by keeled slugs and the worms are a secondary infection.  Neither of these pests are easy to eradicate, unfortunately.  Crop rotation on a 4-year cycle is usually recommended, but your best bet may be doing that and growing slug and eelworm resistant varieties for a few years.  This factsheet may help:

http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/factsheets/pc24.php

Digging up and storing the potatoes as soon as the haulms die back will help, too.

Hi Bob, thanks for your reply.  I dont think it can be eelworm because the worm can be easily seen, I've not managed to see a photo of this pest anywhere.  I do grow earlies that can be dug up early before the tiny worms take hold, you could be right about the slugs making the holes first.  This year I must try and take a photo which might help identification.  

They arent wire worms are they? I hate those!! they look a lot like mealworms but smaller. I haven't come across any other boaring pest in spuds yet, then again last year was my first attempt.

Thank you for your reply, I have looked at these but the worms in my potatos are soft bodied, pale cream/brown, smaller than 2cm there are a few in each hole and the wriggle all together when dug up.  

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Sounds like wireworm to me (they aren't very wire-like). Very difficult to conrol, chickens are best I'm told. Common in ground converted from grass, they are larvae of the click beetle, we were plagued by them on a newly created allotment. No chemical control, they do disappear with cultivation but this takes years but can be hastened by growing sacrificial crops of potatoes, don't compost then though! 

Thank you for your reply.  I guess I will just have to carry on doing what I do at the moment then and not leave the potatos in too long.  Maybe I could persuade the allotement committee to invest in some chickens!  I think that would be a good idea.

I have had this problem with wire worm also

They attacked the roots of all my brassicas last year as well. I have found that peircing a potato with a cane then burying it for a week will attract them, the potato and worms can be dispossed of safely and the trap can be reinstalled all over again.

Hello, I got blight on my potatoe stalks, so I cut the tops off and left the potatoes in the ground for a couple of weeks like the books have said. Now that I've come to dig them up they have holes in them. should I have just dug them up when I cut the tops off or would this damage have been caused earlier or is it because I left them in the ground for a couple of weeks? 

They probably already had holes in them, Warren.  Digging up is essential for potatoes, in my experience at least, otherwise they're too close to the surface and slugs and everything else can get to them there.  You need to do it as they are growing though.

Warren - there's no way to be sure now, it's entirely possible that your spuds had already been attacked.

For next year, you can get nematodes to kill both slugs and wire worms in the soil - they aren't cheap but they are effective. I think Bob may be talking about 'earthing up' rather than actually digging up potatoes as they are growing, but I've not found earthing up to be particularly effective at stopping the slugs which live in the soil. 

If you have blight next year on your spuds, I suggest when you cut the tops down you lift one plant and have a look to see if there are signs of anything eating the tubers. And if so get them all out of the ground asap. Weather has a big impact on all these pests (including blight), so it can vary a great deal from year to year

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