Seed potato demand likely to increase

Demand for certified potato seed is likely to increase over future years, according to speakers at the recent Potatoes in Practice event near Dundee.

Regulatory changes – such as the new Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) directive – and the continued threat of seed-borne diseases would be the key drivers, experts said.

Changes to the PCN directive (which come into force in July 2010) meant all land destined for seed would need the test, unless the seed was to be planted on the same premises as it was produced, explained Jon Pickup, from the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency.

Previously only marketed seed required a pre-crop test, and this could not be planted on infested land. “This move will go a long way to increase the use of classified seed, since it will restrict the movement of farm-saved seed between holdings within the same business,” he said.

“Growers with both seed and ware crops will have to commit to their seed area before they plant.”

Continued threat from the Erwinia species Dickeya dianthicola could further increase demand for seed grown under the Safe Haven Accreditation Scheme, said the Scottish Crop Research Institute’s Ian Toth.

“It’s not a problem in Scotland – no cases have yet been found – but it is a threat. The best way to keep it out is to buy Safe Haven seed.”

Israel is concerned about the disease and regularly finds it in imported seed, he added. “The country is due to move to a zero tolerance strategy which could be a boost for Safe Haven growers.”

British Potato Council seed and export manager Iain Dykes said the threat of non-endemic diseases highlighted the importance of the origin and provenance of seed. “It’s vital both seed and ware growers support the Safe Haven Accreditation Scheme since it offers the best chance of exclusion from serious disease threats.”