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New blackleg threat to British crops

25 August 2011

Over 800 people visited the informative AHDB Potatoes technical seminars at BP2009. One of the seminars brought growers valuable information of a new Dickeya pathogen.

Growers attending the seminar were guided through a major new disease threat to potato crop production. Scientists have discovered a new bacterial pathogen in the genus Dickeya that causes plants to wilt and rotting in tubers. Symptoms are almost indistinguishable from ‘traditional’ blackleg (Pectobacterium atrosepticum) but the disease appears to be more aggressive and causes damage in a wider range of conditions and at lower bacterial loadings.

 The pathogen, currently referred to as ‘Dickeya solani’, is a close relative of Dickeya dianthicola, previously known as Erwinia chrysanthemi, that has caused damage to crops on the continent since the 1970s. But unlike D. dianthicola, the new pathogen thrives under a range of conditions, according to SASA’s head of diagnostics and analytical services, says Dr Gerry Saddler, who presented at BP2009.

 To view Gerry Saddler’s presentation live from BP2009 via YouTube click on the following links:

Gerry Saddler presentation Part 1  
Gerry Saddler presentation Part 2 

 Mark Prentice, AHDB Potatoes head of seed and export is keen for seed growers in particular to help establish an adequate defence strategy. “The high health of British seed is a huge selling point. At the heart of our high health status lies the Safe Haven Certification Scheme. Some 60 per cent of the British seed area is in the scheme and seed growers who are members of the scheme can now have the logo printed directly on to their seed bags. It is important that we continue to raise awareness of the plant health benefits that Safe Haven seed brings.” Examples of seed bags with the logo were on show at BP2009.

 Key members of the industry discussed the importance of the Safe Haven scheme live at BP2009. To view the YouTube footage click on the following links:

1. AHDB Potatoes head of seed and export Mark Prentice
2. Tetbury Safe Haven seed producer Graham Nichols
3. John Elphinstone. Food and Environment Research Agency, a scientific view
4. Nigel Allam, Agrimarc a technical and agronomic perspective

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