18 September 1998

Keep eye on brown rot

CONCERN that official testing for potato brown rot could be wound down when an EU control directive is enforced next July is highlighted by news from Holland.

Brown rot has been found on 104 farms in the countrys starch growing area this season. Although the Dutch starch area is well away from the nearest seed growing region, constant vigilance is needed to keep the disease at bay in the UK, says NFU potato committee chairman Richard Watson Jones.

"We are anxious that there are signs that MAFF plans to scale back seed testing once the directive is in force."

The majority – 80% – of the latest Dutch outbreaks were in crops from farm-saved seed, and tests are under way to determine how irrigation and machinery may have contributed to this years findings, says a Dutch government spokesman. So far no infection has been detected in seed or ware crops. &#42