Growers told to source clean seed

The adoption of good hygiene needed to protect seed potato exports.

The British Potato Council (BPC) is urging growers to ensure the sourcing of clean seed and the adoption of good hygiene practices to ward off the threat of Dickeya dianthicola to safeguard the UK seed potato exports. The bacterial disease, formerly classified as Erwinia Chrysanthemi (Echr), has been on the increase on the Continent since its discovery on Dutch crops in the 1970s. Outbreaks in the UK have been low, with only 40 confirmed findings since 1990; however, the BPC says anecdotal evidence suggests the problem is more widespread. European seed importers are aware of the increase in disease caused by Dickeya in stocks originating in affected Continental countries and the BPC suggests now is the time to safeguard UK crops to create a strong competitive advantage for UK seed exports. Hard to spot in growing crops, the bacteria causes wilting of up to 30 per cent, with subsequent yield loss. The hot UK temperatures in 2006 have made the symptoms more obvious and pushed the disease up the list of industry priorities, driving concerns that global warming may lead to more local problems in the future. Where outbreaks have been monitored, they all seem to have a common link — imported seed. There is no treatment for the disease and the BPC is advising the sourcing of clean seed, good hygiene management and the adoption of its best practice guidelines for blackleg reduction to minimise spread and loss. To get the message across to growers BPC has launched Echr Review: The Facts, and a grower advice sheet is currently in production for distribution to the industry.

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