Europe, UK, Ireland, Most viewed stories, News April 2024, Pests and Diseases, Seed, Smart Farming

Why industry-wide effort is needed to tackle potato virus threat in the UK

Across Europe, a recent rise in seed potato crops being downgraded due to virus diseases sends a very strong message that action must be taken now to arrest the upward trend. This means a shift in focus from individual control measures to a functioning, evidence-based integrated pest management (IPM) strategy that has the confidence of growers, as Richard Allison and Adam Clarke reports in this comprehensive article published by Farmers Weekly.

Viruses that damage potato crops – mostly spread by aphid vectors – are not new, with widespread leaf “curl” documented in agricultural literature as early as the 1700s. In Scotland, the SPCS is run by Sasa (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) and its data from the past two seasons shows a sharp upward trend in crops downgraded or failed due to virus.

SAC Consulting’s Aberdeenshire-based potato specialist Kyran Maloney reminds us of how much of a challenge it is agronomically to manage virus, particularly as milder winters become the norm, aiding winter pest survival. Hotter summers then help aphids invade crops earlier when they are most vulnerable, and produce generations of young which build to damaging numbers much faster.

By 2023, Sasa data shows a significant jump to 15.4% downgraded and 1.8% failed, notes SAC Consulting’s Aberdeenshire-based potato specialist Kyran Maloney. Although the figures are alarming, Kyran stresses that Scottish potato seed remains very high health and the increase shows the Seed Potato Classification Scheme (SPCS) system is functioning as it should.

Yorkshire-based potato specialist John Sarup says preventing or avoiding sources of infection is top of his list as the basis of a long-term virus reduction strategy, with a particular focus on volunteer or groundkeeper control.

Source: Farmers Weekly (FWI). Read the full article here
Cover photo: Credit Blackthorn Arable via FWI

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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