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Gardeners Guidance

Growing healthy seed potatoes from Britain

26 June 2013

The health of our national seed potato crop is fundamental to both our potato industry and gardening community.

This guidance informs amateur potato growers on the importance of keeping our seed potato crop free of Ring Rot and other diseases that, if allowed to enter GB and infect potatoes, would be highly damaging to all of our growers.

Diseases, such as Ring Rot, are known to be prevalent in many parts of Europe and beyond, and if allowed to infect and spread through the GB seed crop, could never be eradicated and would cause serious damage to our potato crops.
This guidance aims to raise awareness of plant health risks from seed potatoes of non-GB origin and will demonstrate how the Safe Haven scheme can offer assurance to gardeners on the origin, health and provenance of GB seed potatoes. 

Also view and Download: Seed potatoes from Great Britain guide


Gardeners’ Guidance for buying and growing seed potatoes

Around 10k tonnes of GB seed potatoes are sold annually to gardeners in small packs, via nationwide garden centres, mail-order and the internet, right around GB. During the seed packing process, sometimes GB seed is sent (for various reasons, but usually cost) to European countries for packing before returning to our shores for sale and growing on (labelled as seed from GB or UK). Occasionally seed potatoes grown in Europe are also marketed in GB through various retail outlets.
Mainland Europe is known to harbour the devastating Ring Rot pathogen (amongst others) and, whilst it’s not harmful to human health, it is devastating to the potato plant. Buying and growing seed of non-GB origin (or GB seed that has been packed overseas and returned to GB for sale) means that the risk of contamination is unacceptably high.
Plant health legislation exists to control the movement and handling of commercial quantities of seed but small quantities for growing by gardeners are not covered by this plant health legislation, which is why this guidance is important.

Buy healthy GB seed

One way of being certain the seed you’re buying is healthy is to ask for seed potatoes that have been produced under the ‘Safe Haven’ assurance scheme. This independently-audited scheme ensures that seed covered by the scheme’s rules are produced and handled to the highest levels of plant health and bio-security standards - protecting seed from harmful pathogens and protecting growers from inadvertently buying seed infected with high-risk diseases.
Classified GB seed potatoes, especially those produced under the enhanced protection of the independently-audited Safe Haven scheme, are highly traceable within GB, and are subject to strict plant health and inspection procedures. But if any seed leaves our shores (and then returns here for sale and growing on), it is very difficult or impossible to trace its movements, and it will have been open to potential infection which will spread quickly and easily if brought in via this route.
As the internet is used increasingly for purchasing garden supplies, this also holds risks for plant health if infected seed is inadvertently purchased and grown on in GB. 
Buy seed that you know has been produced and packed entirely within GB, and preferably as part of Safe Haven.

Grow from seed - not table - potatoes

There are plant health risks from growing potatoes from table (eating) potatoes that may have been imported from overseas. The practice of using table potatoes as seed is not advisable as it carries risks and may not produce a healthy, high-yielding crop. Always use healthy seed from GB to get the best results and to prevent disease entering soils and plants.
GB seed potatoes are Ring Rot-free and it is entirely possible to maintain this status if the authorities, industry and gardening community work together to protect GB seed.

Key information on seed potato health and the risks from imported diseases

  • GB seed is high health, high quality – achieved by the vigilance of national plant health authorities, the seed potato industry and AHDB Potatoes, all working together to keep out harmful pathogens prevalent in the EU and world-wide. But the authorities can only go so far with resources available; the seed producing and gardening communities must also play their part in bio-security.
  • Seed potato health is a national bio-security issue, and if pathogens are imported into GB on seed, it could have consequences just as serious as Dutch Elm Disease, Ash Die-back, and Oak Processionary Moth. 
  • AHDB Potatoes sponsors the quality assurance scheme, ‘Safe Haven’, which requires its member seed growers and suppliers to follow a strict growing and handling regime to protect seed from contamination. Safe Haven provides seed customers with the peace of mind that comes with buying ‘extra-safe’ healthy seed from a Safe Haven supplier. 
  • Look out for Safe Haven logo when buying seed potatoes.

To help protect our national seed potato crop…

  • Buy Safe Haven seed.
  • Buy seed grown, packed and handled only in GB 
  • Only grow potatoes from healthy seed, not from table potatoes (which may be imported and therefore a plant health risk).
  • If you inadvertently buy seed from overseas, do not plant it and do not compost it. Dispose of it safely via your household refuse collection.


Further information and advice

AHDB Potatoes (seed potato team): tel: 0131 472 4064;