By FWi staff

IRRIGATION of potatoes and tomatoes with water from six rivers in the south and east is to be banned from Friday (07 July) under new EU rules to prevent the spread of potato brown rot.

All six stretches have been found to be contaminated with the bacteria which causes the disease.

Brown rot has no known implications for human health but can seriously damage potato production, says the ministry.

Further restrictions are likely as testing continues, it notes.

The new directive, 98/57/EC, came into force last August. Previous restrictions were advisory only, said a MAFF spokesperson.

Growers beside the Willow Brook in Northamptonshire; Pix Brook, Bedfordshire; the rivers Lea (or Lee) in Hertfordshire; Loddon, Berkshire; and Wraysbury, Surrey, and by the Hogwell Sewer, Kent, are being informed of the controls.

However, they may, subject to an official test, use water abstracted from the affected sources during winter and stored in reservoirs free of the woody nightshade host plants.