3 October 2000
Rhizomania hits West Midlands

By FWi staff

RHIZOMANIA in sugar beet has been found for the first time in the West Midlands.

But only 13 new UK farms have been infected so far this season, compared to an unprecedented 33 fresh ones last year, Ministry of Agriculture surveys reveal.

News of the discovery of the disease on an unidentified Staffordshire farm is disturbing, says National Farmers Union regional policy advisor Claire Robinson.

“I am stunned and surprised, especially as the overall number of cases of rhizomania is down on last years horrendous level.

“It is obviously very concerning for the farmer involved, but all our members with beet will be worried.

Miss Robinson said West Midland growers would now require information on issues like hygiene and disinfectants to protect their businesses.

The NFU compensation scheme, paying for the destroyed crop, is available to the affected grower, notes NFU sugar beet committee chairman Matt Twidale.

MAFF advises growers to keep machinery clean to avoid spreading infected soil. Legislation dictates that no produce should contain more than 1% soil per weight.

While most rhizomania cases are found in East Anglia, researchers had expected it to show up on other areas with light soils and a slightly higher clay content.