Debate on potato cyst nematode rules

Potato growers are being asked for their views on rules to be introduced next year to control potato cyst nematode (PCN).

The industry in Scotland could accept stricter regulations than in England and Wales to protect its seed potato industry. More than 60 per cent of potato-growing land in England is affected by PCN but less than 25 per cent in Scotland, which is responsible for 80 per cent of the UK's certified seed potatoes.

"The consultation has only just started so it is important not to prejudge the outcome," said Potato Council head of seed and export Mark Prentice. "One of the key questions will be whether we need a different approach to protect the status of Scottish land." He suggested that Scottish growers might be prepared to accept stricter rules, for example on the movement of farm-saved seed, to safeguard the health status of the industry as a whole.

The new EU PCN directive replaces controls introduced in 1969 but which have largely failed to prevent spread of the pest. Many of the issues raised by growers during earlier consultations are incorporated in the new rules, says Defra. In particular, most soil sampling in the UK will be eligible for reduced sampling rates of 400ml/hectare up to 4ha and 200ml/hectare for sampling above this threshold.

A key aim of the new directive was to produce a harmonised approach to testing for PCN, but it does not discriminate between seed and ware potatoes.

- The NFU will brief its members about the implications of the directive so they can respond before the closing date of 19 June. The consultation is at www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/pcn/.


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