British potato industry unites to take on blackleg disease

Blackleg disease clearly visible on a potato plant

In a press release issued earlier today, it is announced that a group of major potato business and public sector organisations, including the Scottish Government and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), have sponsored a £242,000 research project aimed at reducing the impact of potato disease blackleg on the Scottish seed potato industry. AHDB and Scottish Government joint-funded a project during 2013-2016 which provided significant new information on blackleg and its origins. It also highlighted areas where further investigation is required for improved management of the problem. As a result, a second project will begin this September to identify the major routes of initial contamination of high-grade tubers and establish best practice for blackleg management. Sue Cowgill, Senior Crop Protection Scientist at AHDB said: “We hope that by determining the impact of post-harvest practices such as storage, grading and handling practices on the contamination of tubers we can set a platform for an industry-wide approach to tackling this disease. The research may also identify the potential for new and innovative control options as part of the blackleg management tool kit.” 

Scotland is one of the leading growers of seed potatoes in the world, producing 75% of all seed grown in the UK. Scottish seed production underpins a domestic potato sector valued at £167 million and provides the foundations for GB production that has a retail value estimated at over £4 billion.

Alistair Redpath, Chief Executive at Cygnet Potato Breeders, said: “Our seed trade is based on the maintenance of our excellent high-health reputation. As part of maintaining this justified position the industry relies on AHDB research to inform further improvements to our practices.”

The project has been awarded to a consortium comprising James Hutton Institute, SAC Commercial Ltd, Fera Science Ltd, Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), BioSS and Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (SBCSR).

Financial and in kind support for the project is being provided by McCain Potatoes Ltd, Greenvale AP, Cygnet Potato Breeders Ltd, Agrico UK Ltd, APS BioControl Ltd, HZPC, Caithness Potatoes Ltd, Branston Ltd and Techneat Engineering.

Source: AHDB