26 May 1995

Improved hygiene helps profitability

GREATER attention to hygiene during seed multiplication could revolutionise the profitability of the seed trade.

"If seed health can be maintained during multiplication then the whole economics of seed production can be changed," reckons Eric Allen, director of Cambridge University Farms.

Clean seed production is possible, even if the parent stock is dirty, he says. "If you grow seed the right way you can make virtually clean seed from dirty stock. The way in which the seed crop is produced is absolutely fundamental to the quality of the seed sold at the end of the year."

Harvesting during dry, warm conditions early in the season and maintaining clean storage conditions is essential. Combined with the kick-start to multiplication afforded by mini-tubers, that could mean significantly cleaner seed could be available, he argues.

Dr Geoff Hyde of Rothamsted echoes that view. "Im not saying we should have hospital hygiene on the farm, but we should see the need for a cleaner potato environment." As colleague Peter Read explains, just one silver scurf spore is needed to infect an entire tuber. In the survey up to 1535 spores were found in each gram of store dust. Thorough cleaning of chitting stores is clearly needed, says Dr Hyde.

Mr Allen forecasts that premium seed with a nil fungal tolerance exists and will become an increasingly commercial reality this year. "We have tried this at commercial level and achieved largely disease free seed." &#42

Greater attention to detail could keep seed clean throughout multiplication, says Cambridge Universitys Eric Allen