A workshop held by AHDB Potatoes in Scotland last month attracted 60 growers and industry representatives to Gordon Rhind’s farm at Forres in Morayshire.
Gerry Saddler of SASA has been working on secondment with AHDB Potatoes looking at Blackleg management. He advised attendees that, “Blackleg is a problem all over Northern Europe and it is by far the biggest reason for the downgrading and rejection of seed in this country. In Pre-Basic four crops (PB4), post-harvest surveys revealed that 100% of crops tested were infected with Pectobacterium atrosepticum, the Blackleg pathogen. We still don’t have all the answers [but] there is no ‘silver bullet’ and the Blackleg problem needs to be tackled from several angles in conjunction.”
AHDB Potatoes stresses that, ‘Seed health needs to take all variables into account. Tactics such as separation of PB fields for years 1 and 2, isolation of PB fields from outside sources and diagnostic testing for contamination on the tuber surface and systemically are recommended.’ Ian Tooth of the James Hutton Institute pointed out that it was important to ensure good drainage and to harvest high-grade stocks as early as possible.
The event was developed with the host farmer by AHDB Potatoes’ Technical Executive, Claire Hodge who is also working on the Blackleg research project. Claire commented, “This meeting clearly demonstrated that industry are keen to learn more about what research is underway to understand Blackleg and even more importantly, what they can do to minimise Blackleg in their seed crops.”