Savari Research Trust director says 2014 has the makings of a "meltdown year" for potato late blight

The current season's conditions and early reported incidence of blight are similar to 2007, the last year of major blight problems, Savari Research Trust (SRT) research director Dr David Shaw has warned.

Image: Scot Nelson
Image: Scot Nelson

Writing on his blog, Shaw said: "Every year, the arrival and reproduction of the pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, is different. Last year we didn't see much disease until very late in the season but we [have since] had a very mild winter.

"This means that unharvested tubers lying on or just under the soil surface were not frosted and some of these must have carried a latent infection of blight."

He singled out allotments as likely sources of outbreaks, "because lots of susceptible varieties are grown, few if any are sprayed against blight, [there are] dumps of old tubers and volunteers on neglected plots".

The first sample of 2014 was confirmed on 9 May - "quite a bit earlier than usual", as the warm, wet late spring favoured blight reproduction, he pointed out, adding: "It all depends on the weather during July and August. We just might escape."

Shaw will be speaking on the blight-resistant Sarpo potatoes which the SRT promotes at the inaugural NIAB Innovation Farm conference next month.

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