Potato ring rot outbreak successfully contained, Fera reveals

An outbreak of potato ring rot has been successfully contained and no longer poses a threat to other potato crops, the UK’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) has confirmed.

The agency’s plant health and seeds inspectors identified two ring rot incidents in the UK during the first few months of 2013 – the first such incidents since 2005.

One of the incidents was from a consignment of ware potatoes from Poland while the other was from contaminated seed stock from the Netherlands.

Some 340 tonnes of contaminated stock have now been safely disposed of – as have 1,350 tonnes of stock that could possibly have been contaminated.

Planting restrictions will remain in place on fields where infected stocks were grown in accordance with legal requirements.

Fera is now warning the industry to be vigilant and to adhere to new legislation to prevent another outbreak of the disease.

Fera’s principal plant health and seeds inspector Derek McCann said: "As imports of ware and seed potatoes have risen following the shortfall in the UK harvest last year, the risk posed by this potentially devastating disease has heightened."

"Processors and traders importing large quantities of potatoes this year should be aware of the ring rot risk involved and take care with sources. Apart from the threat to the home potato industry, failure to meet plant health requirements could cause substantial financial loss to importers if their consignments are delayed or rejected."

New legislation  - introduced at the end of last year (2012) - requires Fera to be informed of all deliveries of ware potatoes from Poland, Romania, Spain and Portugal.

Across the EU, statutory monitoring involves routine testing of samples of seed and ware potatoes. 

Scientists at Fera’s Plant Clinic near York are now using state of the art modern molecular DNA detection and identification methods - while still carrying out the more traditional bacteriological-based host tests in eggplants - to increase the speed and accuracy of finding low ring rot infection levels.

Further information regarding potato imports can be found at http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/plantHealth/pestsDiseases/potatoRingRot.cfm

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