OFFICIALS IN the Netherlands have identified more potatoes containing potato ring rot.

The batch of Sante variety potatoes may have a clonal link to stock supplied to the Herefordshire grower John Mercer, whose farm was at the centre of the UK‘s recent outbreak .

Although officials are saying it is too early in their investigation to confirm that the latest findings are linked to the case of Mr Mercer they are investigating the possibility.

“There is a possible link,” said a DEFRA spokesman. “We will be checking all possible farms in the chain.”

But DEFRA has been quick to reassure growers that none of the 2004 crop of potatoes from the Dutch grower had been supplied to the UK.

As a precaution additional crop testing is being carried out on farms which could be considered at risk from receiving infected stock, the DEFRA spokesman added.

The testing programme is focusing on the outbreak farm in Herefordshire, a farm in Lincolnshire, as well as two other farms (in Norfolk and Newcastle) which received stocks of Sante from another seed potato grower in the Netherlands which supplied Mr Mercer.

A further farm in Suffolk has recently been included in the investigation as it received potatoes from Mr Mercer‘s farm in Herefordshire for on-farm processing.

DEFRA officials are checking the Suffolk farm‘s own crop as an extra precaution.

Full details on ring rot can be found on DEFRA‘s website at www.defra.gov.uk/planth/ring.htm.