24 May 2002

Rhizo revamp opens door to infected beet

RHIZOMANIA-INFECTED sugar beet will be allowed into UK factories for the first time this autumn.

That is one outcome of a new agreement between the NFU and British Sugar to combat the disease after DEFRAs withdrawal of statutory rhizomania controls earlier this year.

Main aim of the new policy is to ease restrictions on growers with rhizomania, while protecting those who have yet to experience its devastating effects, says NFU sugar beet committee chairman, Mike Blacker.

"We understand DEFRA will pick up some of the costs, which is very welcome. It is essential we maintain a tight grip on rhizomania to ensure its spread is curbed in the absence of statutory controls."

Precisely when and where rhizo-infected beet will be processed is not clear. Intake is not expected to be limited to specific factories, instead infected crops may be processed last.

A key objective is to prevent rhizo-contaminated waste water reaching irrigation sources. Strict biosecurity measures will minimise the spread of infected soil.

The NFUs levy-funded compensation scheme stays, but only for those hit by the new, potentially more virulent p-type strain. Contract exchanges between rhizo-affected and non-affected producers will be allowed and a mini out-goers scheme solely for plant health reasons is being introduced.

An aerial detection survey, previously done by DEFRA, will be conducted this summer and suspected cases followed up by farm visits. DEFRA intends to continue research into the disease, particularly p-types.

Removal of protected zone status in March freed growers to sow rhizo-tolerant varieties on infected fields. But the NFU is advising against this for two years to allow breeders to multiply up varieties which are suitable for UK conditions.

Only a small percentage of the UK beet area is affected by rhizomania. But the disease can cut yield even in the most resistant varieties, which is why the industry is committed to minimising its spread, says BS business development manager Peter Williams.

"Rhizomania carries cost. You only have to look at countries where the disease is most prevalent. Yields can sometimes be heavily hit."

&#8226 See our Sugar Beet Special on p64-73 for more beet info. &#42

RHIZO REVAMP

&#8226 New joint NFU/BS strategy.

&#8226 Aims to protect UK industry.

&#8226 Infected beet intakes permitted.

&#8226 DEFRA assistance anticipated.

&#8226 New joint NFU/BS strategy.

&#8226 Aims to protect UK industry.

&#8226 Infected beet intake permitted.

&#8226 DEFRA assistance anticipated.