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Potato virus: More farms put on suspect list in New Zealand

Eighteen farms are now on the suspect list for a new potato virus, Biosecurity New Zealand says, and testing has been widened to the North Island. The Potato Mop-Top Virus, or PM-TV, affected potatoes used to make chips. It was found for the first time in New Zealand on two properties in Canterbury last month.

But the latest industry stakeholder update showed that as well as the two confirmed cases there were a now further 18 suspected cases, also in the Canterbury region. The virus’ response controller, David Yard of Biosecurity New Zealand, said they were testing seed potatoes, plus samples from manufacturers and growers in the North Island.

He said the suggestion at the moment was that there were not a lot of “highly symptomatic potatoes” – such as those with large purple streaks across them. He said the discovery so far had come exclusively from processing plants. “But clearly, if the processors have potatoes with symptoms, they have come from infected farms, and out job is to trace back.” Mr Yard said it was akin to searching for a needle in a potato stack.

Full report by Radio New Zealand