Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

New blackleg strain found in North

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

A new strain of blackleg potato disease has been detected in Northern Ireland.

The new disease, known as Dickeya Solani, was found as part of a survey of 62 crops.

This follows an outbreak of the same disease in Scotland last week.

The North and Scotland are the two most important sources of imported seed for the €100m potato industry in Ireland.

The infected crop in the North has since been destroyed but growers in the Republic are on high alert because this latest strain of the disease is so virulent.

Since it was first discovered on the Continent in 2005, the disease has become the predominant cause of blackleg in Europe.

The bacterium can survive in soil and spreads via water courses. It causes black rotting at the stem base. Initial infections cause stunted growth and yellowing stems.

All potato crops grown with seed certified in Northern Ireland tested clear and the North's Department of Agriculture is confident that the local seed industry remains free of the disease.

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Michelle Gildernew, Northern Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, said that she wanted "to re-assure growers that this outbreak had been fully contained by my officials on the ground.

"Any machinery and equipment that may have come into contact with the crop must be cleaned and disinfected before coming into contact with any other potatoes.

"The affected crop will be disposed of under the supervision of DARD and no part of it will be replanted."

Meanwhile, the first of an estimated 16,000t of potatoes being exported to Russia will be shipped Drogheda port this week as a bumper harvest saw yields jump by 28pc on last year.

Irish Independent