An increasing proportion of ware production in Scotland could threaten the high health status of seed potatoes produced in the country, Allan Parker, president of the World Potato Congress, told Farmers Weekly after speaking to seed growers at the Potato Council’s Seed Industry Event.
“Up until recently, the ratio of seed to ware production was 60% seed to 40% ware,” he said. “Now it has flipped to closer to 40% seed and 60% ware in Scotland. That’s a changed situation which must not be let get away.”
In his presentation, Mr Parker explained how Prince Edward Island in Canada had lost its high seed health status for seed potatoes during the 1980s after processing production increased, bringing in varieties with low virus resistance, and after seed growers had had to pay for certification.
The result was that the seed potato industry dropped from a high of 60,000 acres to 17,000 acres by 2007 and thriving export markets were lost.
“Growers shouldn’t be afraid of growth and change, but if it wants success, it needs to be vigilant to the challenges it brings,” he said.
Mr Parker suggested there should be legislation to help protect the seed industry’s high health status. “If you’re growing table crops [in seed areas], you have to agree to meet good health standards for those crops before they are planted,” he said.
That would start with using only certified seed or farm-saved seed that met agreed quality standards.
Also, ware growers had a duty to understand that aphids in their crops presented a risk for transmitting virus in seed crops. “If Scotland wishes to keep a seed potato industry, the standards for virus control in ware crops need to be very high,” he said.
Russia and other eastern European countries offered a great export opportunity for Scottish seed growers and the wider potato industry, said Mr Parker.