16 November 1999
Brown rot hits Northants spuds

By FWi staff

AN OUTBREAK of potato brown rot has been confirmed in a crop of potatoes grown in Northamptonshire.

The Ministry of Agriculture says that the affected farm has been placed under official restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease.

MAFF says investigations are currently under way to identify the source of the outbreak.

Potato brown rot can seriously damage potatoes but, according to MAFF, has no known implications for human health.

Initial findings suggest it may have come from contaminated irrigation water, though other sources of the infection are also being considered.

Potato brown rot is caused by the bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum and is subject to specific controls under the EC plant health regime

The two previous UK outbreaks of potato brown rot occurred in Thames Valley in 1992 and 1995.

The bacterium also caused outbreaks of disease in tomatoes in Bedfordshire in 1997 and 1998.

Irrigating crops with water from contaminated rivers apparently caused all these cases. The bacterium persists by infecting wild woody nightshade plants with roots in the water.

MAFF says a number of rivers in the Thames basin and East Anglia are contaminated by the bacterium.

The ministry, along with the Environment Agency, the British Potato Council and the local drainage authority, are trying to eradicate it by removing host plants.

Rivers still infected next year will be designated as such and irrigation from them banned.