Bacterial disease Dickeya found in newly-planted ware potatoes

The NFU is advising British potato growers to do everything they can to stop the spread of Dickeya solani after it was found in a crop of newly-planted ware potatoes in Scotland.

The bacterial disease was found in one stock in a field near Coupar Angus. Immediate action was taken by the Scottish authorities to remove the seed stock from potato production - as is the law for all non-Scottish seed potatoes brought into the country.

The disease has never been found in Scottish-origin potatoes but two outbreaks in ware crops last year in the country prompted the Scottish government to introduce "nil tolerance" on Dickeya to protect its potato production.

A representative for the NFU said: "Scottish government and other potato stakeholders (including the Potato Council) are pleased that the new preventative regulations have worked and steps were taken to ensure that D. solani is not introduced into Scotland.

"This will also serve to provide confidence to customers of British seed. However, it high-lights the risk D. solani poses to British potato production and associated risks of importing seed. There are no equivalent notification or control procedures in place for England and Wales."

D. solani is found in continental Europe and causes blackleg and tuber rot-like symptoms. The disease can cause yield losses of up to 30 per cent and is already common in many parts of continental Europe.

In 2007 production losses in the Netherlands were around EUR25m (£20.6m) due to downgrading of seed crops.

The NFU is advising British growers to take action to minimise business risks, including:

- Considering/requesting more information about the source and history of their potato seed inputs.

- Purchasing appropriate quality seed for further multiplication (however, be aware that high-grade seed status may not necessarily rule out the presence of D. solani).

- Purchasing Safe Haven scheme accredited seed, which tackles ring rot, another bacterial disease that threatens British potatoes.

- Requesting diagnostic test analysis to confirm D. solani is not present.

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