5 April 1996

Now brown rot found in home grown potatoes

By Tony McDougal

FEARS over outbreaks of brown rot deepened this week with the discovery of a case in potatoes grown in the UK.

Plant health inspectors made the discovery after taking a sample of ware potatoes from stock stored on a UK potato farm in the Thames Valley.

MAFF inspectors have already made two other findings of brown rot on imported Dutch seed potatoes this year. But the case in domestically grown potatoes is the first since 1992 and only the second on record.

The potatoes were grown last year on the farm near Windsor, Berks, and investigations are currently underway to determine the source of the infection.

Although the last case in 1992 was also found in the Thames Valley, there is no evidence at this stage of any link. After that incident the farmer concerned was banned from growing potatoes or root crops on the infected area for three years.

It is not yet known whether the brown rot sample came from seed imported from Holland in 1994, was home-grown or came from UK produced seed.

A MAFF spokesman said further measures, including future cropping restrictions, would be applied in the light of the investigations.

Mike Storey, Potato Marketing Board head of research and development, said it was important the source of the outbreak was discovered as quickly as possible, though it was still proving difficult to get evidence and information from the Dutch government.

One possible source of infection – if the case is traced back to the UK – could be woody nightshade, which is found along the banks of the Thames Valley.

source for the brown rot bacteria.

Irrigation or other forms of water use could have led to the potatoes becoming contaminated.