Single treatment for most tuber infections set to be made available by 2012

A seed treatment could offer potato growers a single solution for the vast majority of wound diseases, skin infections and field origin diseases, Scottish Agricultural College's (SAC) Dr Stuart Wale has revealed.

Wale, speaking at the ADAS/Syngenta Potato Conference, told growers that the fludioxonil treatment has been commercially available in the USA and Australia for some time and performed well in SAC-led trials conducted between 2005 and 2009.

The new chemical, which is expected to be available in the UK by the 2012 growing season, provides a wider spectrum of disease control than existing products.

It has proved effective on Rhizoctonia, silver scurf and black dot, as well as reducing common scab caused by Streptomyces scabies, reducing the infection of tubers in some trials by around 50 per cent.

"It does appear to be a step forward in seed treatments," said Wale. "The fact that we have seen activity on black dot and a reduction in common scab makes it unique and extremely exciting.

"It's doing a good job where we need it most. The results suggest it will have a useful role, especially on unirrigated crops, or where water supplies are difficult."

SAC researchers have subsequently trialled the seed treatment on a wide number of varieties and conditions.

But Wale stressed the importance of the physical treatment process in achieving good coverage and product retention on the seed.

Trials had shown that frequently under 25 per cent of the current seed treatment was actually staying on the seed tuber. He stressed the need to calibrate applicators for every change in seed stock being treated and to replace the nozzles regularly.

"It's necessary to ensure there is a constant flow of seed tubers across the roller table, and to take account of tuber shape and size. Operators should be looking to achieve 75 to 90 per cent coverage," he said.

While new seed treatment application technology is being developed, Wale said he believed the SAC's work had shown existing conventional roller table applicators can be used effectively, providing operators pay close attention and get everything right.

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