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Ring rot-free safe havens next year:By Mike Abram

RING ROT-FREE safe havens for UK potato seed producers could be in place in time for next season”s plantings, industry officials hope.

The scheme will be accreditation-based, with growers signing up as individuals rather than as a region, says the British Potato Council”s seed potato manager Iain Dykes.

That will create a supply chain safe haven, which has attracted more industry support than the original geographic concept, he says. “Getting an immediate 100% tie-in for a regional scheme would have proved very difficult.”

The two key requirements for growers within the scheme will be to source seed that has been directly multiplied from nuclear stock from farms within a safe haven, and for total traceability of each stock”s history, he says. “At each stage of multiplication the seed will be grown on a safe haven farm and you”ll know exactly where it has been grown.”

Another condition of the protocols will be for all seed transport to be in new bags or sacks, or if moved in bulk containers, that there has been adequate cleaning and disinfection.

“Bulk containers are a significant source of cross-contamination, so if bulkers are used they will need to be inspected prior to any seed movement by a plant health inspector.” Mr Dykes is hopeful that compromise will allow the industry to continue to use bulkers, which save significantly on cost.

Machinery movement on to safe haven farms would also require paperwork certifying cleaning had been undertaken, while grading equipment will be designated for safe haven use.

But Mr Dykes is confident the scheme isn”t going to create too many hurdles for growers, although it may take a couple of years to get a large percentage of seed growers on board. “A lot of the high grade producers are already meeting these conditions already, so should be able to join immediately. From there I can see it snowballing.”

 Scheme costs will be kept to a minimum, he stresses. But if ring rot became endemic in the UK it would cost the industry 11m a year a recent ADAS study suggests. “Protecting our ring rot free status is very important.” Safe haven seed could be worth a premium in future, he adds.

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