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British expert blasts approach of Dutch potato growers who are acting ‘insane’

Dutch potato producers have been accused of putting the efficacy of the industry’s limited number of fungicides at risk through “irresponsible” practices.

Growers attending the SAC Association of Potato Producers conference at Scone heard independent agronomist Denis Buckley describe the Dutch approach to fungicide application as “insane and irresponsible”, even as the industry “hangs on for dear life” to the crop protection products at its disposal.

“They use fungicides intensively in isolation and the result is they’re pushing the blight fungus towards either resistance or reduced sensitivity to those fungicides,” he said. “They’re not using mixtures, but blocks of single active products or ingredients.”

He warned the loss of key fungicide groups meant late blight remains the biggest single threat to global potato production, and predicted the attitude of industry regulators would only change in the event of a food shortage.

“If we get stuck by blight in potatoes or downy mildew in onions and there’s widespread crop failure, we’ll get a sudden change of attitude, and within the legislation there’s provision to grant emergency approvals for chemicals that haven’t gone through the full regulatory process.”

Mr Buckley held out little hope of genetics solving the late blight threat, and said despite new varieties being bred, they would not provide a complete solution. He added: “It takes 10 years to find out the Achilles heels of new varieties, and we wouldn’t want to start with a clean sheet of paper with a farm full of new varieties.

Read the full report in The Press and Journal here