Although on the surface all seems well in the Scottish potato industry, there is a growing problem lurking in the soil which might affect future prospects, according to a recent report published in The Scottish Farmer.
The problem comes from potato cyst nematodes (PCN) that can reduce yields and remove markets for seed potato growers as they require to soil test their land before planting to ensure it is free from PCN.
According to Jon Pickup, from the Scottish Government Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), which carries out the testing, there are currently some 20,000 acres of land infected with PCN and thus ruled out of seed potato production.
It is still permissible to grow ware potatoes on infected land, but doing so increases future levels of infection. Pickup bluntly told potato producers at a recent meeting held in the James Hutton Institute, at Invergowrie: “I think PCN will seriously compromise the area of land we can grow potatoes on in the future unless we change our ways.”
This eelworm, which is how Mr Pickup described it, lies in all the main potato growing areas of the country, with Angus the heartland of the Scottish potato crop also having the highest levels of PCN infestation.
Although Angus topped the infected league, all the other potato growing areas had levels of infection causing Mr Pickup to claim: “It is a Scotland-wide problem.