14 November 1997

Ministry code targets waste

By Robert Harris

POTATO, beet and vegetable growers may need to clean produce more thoroughly if a new code of practice for dealing with plant waste is introduced.

But observers hope to persuade the ministry that growers can do little more to cut waste production. Controlling disease and pest problems in the first place may be more effective, they argue.

The code, currently being drafted, is designed to reduce the spread of plant pests and diseases in plant waste, says a ministry spokes-person. Although the code is voluntary, any legal proceedings relating to waste disposal may use it as a measure of best practice, she adds.

The main targets are root and leafy vegetables, fruit and ornamentals. If approved, the code will replace an eight-year-old one covering safe disposal of waste from imported vegetables and the Disposal of Waste Order (1988). Both were designed to prevent the introduction and spread of rhizomania.

The new code is wider ranging. It aims to address the heightened risk of new disease and pest problems from increased imports, including potato brown rot, rhizomania and colorado beetle. But rhizomania and other organisms, like potato cyst nematode, could also be present in home-grown material. So UK produce will be included in the code, the ministry adds.

Reducing the amount of waste like leafy material and soil is the main aim. Better crop cleaning and trimming and grading in the field would help, says the ministry. Buyers could specify low levels of surplus material in contracts to encourage that.

Comments on the draft code are being invited. "Its value for a disease like brown rot, which we are seeking to eliminate, is obvious," says Mike Storey of the British Potato Council. "But including potato cyst nematode, which is widely distributed, could have big implications for growers."

He will advise the ministry that the BPC will encourage growers to control the problem earlier, rather than rely on waste control measures to limit spread.

Mike Armstrong, of British Sugar, believes the industry is already doing much of what is proposed. "You could argue there is scope for further reduction in soil tare. But we try to keep that to a minimum anyway."

More than 90% of beet is loaded over cleaner loaders. "Whether we need to go further than that is open for discussion. If we overclean it, we could reduce field yield by breakage and bruising, which leads to loss of sugars." &#42

As clean as can be? A new draft code aims to cut the amount of soil and plant waste leaving UK fields.

ASSESSING WASTE

&#8226 Source – does a serious pest or disease occur in area?

&#8226 Crop – is it prone to serious pest and disease attack?

&#8226 Type of waste – might it contain pests and diseases?

&#8226 Pests/diseases – do they survive in soil or water?

&#8226 Action:

Reduce waste at source

Re-use surplus material

Disposal a last resort.