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SASA and AHDB Potatoes investigate Blackleg and plant health

5 November 2014

Professor Gerry Saddler, Head of Potato and Plant Health Division at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) is joining the AHDB Potatoes for a short, part-time secondment. The focus of Gerry’s work will be Blackleg management. 

Recent years have seen a fall in the numbers of Pre-Basic (PB) seed growers which results in greater commercial pressures on this community. Early entry of Blackleg into PB crops is a cause for concern as it may be amplified through the field generations of basic seed.
Gerry advised that “The starting point for this project was a sense that economic, social and cultural drivers in the industry have altered practices influencing the disease and that knowledge of best management practice is “patchy” throughout the supply chain.”  
Gerry will be investigating social changes and how these have influenced cultural practices. Changes in behaviour impact on the development and implementation of best practice, and how best practice is adopted throughout the supply chain.
Robert Burns, AHDB Potatoes head of seed and export who has helped to develop this project with SASA tell us “The methodology has been identified and will commence with 1:1 interviews with Pre-Basic (PB) growers. The information we obtain from these growers will inform the development of the second tier of information gleaned via questionnaires to the seed industry.”
This valuable information – obtained directly from industry - will have a vital role in the development of AHDB Potatoes-funded R&D strategy and also aid key knowledge exchange and best practice messages with and for industry. The work will complement the existing AHDB Potatoes/Scottish Government funded project which is looking at epidemiology and spread of the disease.
This project will deliver its key findings in Spring 2015 and is anticipated to provide a significant leap forward in the understanding of the routes of infection and spread of Blackleg in PB seed crops coupled with engagement with Government to ensure that seed certification remains robust, this work promises to tackle the issues facing PB seed producers and customers.
Industry can find out more on this issue and discuss the project Gerry is running at his Seed Industry Event workshop on 25th November in Perthshire.
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