16 February 1996

Brown rot potatoes destroyed

UP to 260t of seed potatoes have either been destroyed or exported back to Holland after the confirmation of brown rot in a Dutch consignment.

MAFF announced this week that it had destroyed 60t of the early variety Minerva, which tested positive in Cornwall last month.

It has subsequently sent back to Holland two batches of seed potatoes, which tested negative, but came from farms in the Netherlands which have brown rot.

Up to 84t of the first early variety Premier and 116t of the main crop Marfona, collected from 11 farms around the country, were sent back last week.

Simon Ashworth, who grows earlies and crisping potatoes on Romney Marsh, Kent, praised MAFF plant health inspectors for their grass-roots investigative work.

"A colleague of mine was alerted to a potential problem with his seed potatoes before Christmas and received an order not to plant them a fortnight ago," said Mr Ashworth.

"Although the seed potatoes tested negative, they were from a farm where there has been an outbreak in the variety Ostara and were ordered back to Holland," he added.

Farm minister Douglas Hogg turned down requests by the Potato Marketing Board to ban imports of Dutch seed potatoes, saying the situation was in control.

Barbara Johnson, PMB head of research and development, said MAFF plant health inspectors were continuing to carry out investigations into stocks with strong clonal links to the positive sample, though all tests had so far proved negative. &#42