'New potato blight strain found in UK but weather could save Irish growers'

Claire Fox

Claire Fox

An outbreak of a new aggressive strain of potato blight in the UK poses no immediate risk to Irish growers but they can’t be complacent either, a Teagasc advisor has said.

A new strain of late blight called '36_A2', that spread rapidly Europe before arriving in the UK in 2017, has been detected in frequent samples taken in the UK.

Teagasc Crops specialist Shay Phelan said the wet weather experienced in the UK made it difficult for farmers to get fungicides out to their potato crops which has led to increased levels of blight, but he said luckily this hasn’t been the case in Ireland.

“We haven’t had the same damp weather and band of rain as the UK had in mind June. We had the opportunity to get the product out, so we have been lucky.”

Mr Phelan also pointed out that the 36_A2 strain hadn’t been detected in Ireland as not enough samples had been taken but advised farmers to remain cautious.

“The strain is resistant to the most used fungicides we use here, so farmers would have to use alternative chemicals if it was detected.”

Met Eireann has advised that weather that is conducive to the spread of potato blight is expected in the Atlantic coastal areas of Connacht and Ulster.

Mr Phelan added that while it is possible to salvage blight even if it is discovered and the right chemicals are used, he stated that it is important that farmers aren’t complacent and do their best to avoid the disease occurring.

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