Breeding, Cultivation/Production, Europe, UK, Ireland, Pests and Diseases, Research, Sustainability, Varieties

Chemical loss takes centre stage at potato conference

Scottish potato growers have been warned that there might not be a seed industry in Scotland in 30 years’ time if the spread of potato cyst nematode (PCN) continues at its current rate.

As growers gathered to attend the UK’s largest potato conference, Potatoes in Practice – at the James Hutton Institute’s Balruddery Farm, in Invergowrie – there was a sense of urgency for the industry to unite in its approach to tackling PCN, to ensure the long term survival of the sector.

It has been revealed that 5% of seed ground in Scotland is now infested with the potato pest and with a longevity of 25-30 years – that means that land can be rendered commercially useless for spuds during some of that time.

The director of Scotland’s Plant Health Centre, Professor Ian Toth, warned that using globodera resistant varieties of potatoes is having little to no effect against the pallida species.

He explained that pallida is becoming a growing problem with the amount of land infested by the species doubling every six or seven years.

Adding fuel to the fire, the potato industry has lost an important herbicide and desiccant – diquat – which has been used by growers in the UK for more than 50 years to desiccate foliage on the potato plant.

Chemistry loss also took centre stage at the conference and it was revealed that there are further chemicals expected to end up on the hit list for being taken out of the grower’s armoury, though discussions focused around alternatives to replace diquat.

Read the full report by Claire Taylor, Political Affairs Editor at The Scottish Farmer here

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