Seed certification and classification review due
POTATO seed certification and classification standards are being questioned by a leading grower and British Potato Council member.
Speaking at the Potato 99 event, Tony Bambridge said more emphasis needed to be placed on fungal disease standards, labelling could be improved, and the English and Scottish schemes should come under one British banner.
"When the current schemes were developed fungal tuber diseases did not have the importance for the industry that they do now. The standards were very largely focused on viral or rotting diseases. I ask the question whether the classification and certification standards we employ truly reflect the needs of the industry today?"
Seed close to the current fungal tolerance of a maximum 4% of tubers having more than 25% of the surface area affected by fungal disease represents a huge problem for ware growers, he maintained.
Generation markers on labels would also benefit the industry, informing growers of exactly how many times seed has been grown on. Increasing use of mini-tubers means most seed stocks have been grown for fewer generations than ten years ago, but voluntary downgrading hides that information.
"You cant tell whether it is a true SE1 or E1, and you cant necessarily say that an E1 or an E3 is seven or eight field generations old – it may only be two or three."
Mr Bambridge also called for a unification of the Scottish certification, and English classification schemes. "They are actually the same scheme, but are administered by two different bodies – one being MAFF, one being the Scottish office."
Subtle differences in how they are administered, such as labelling standards, can confuse domestic growers, and cannot help British exports of seed, he concluded.
• Tighter fungal standards reqd.
• Generation markers on labels.
• Unified British seed scheme?