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O'Neill confirms detection of potato disease

6 July, 2011 - by Michelle O'Neill

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill MLA has confirmed the finding of Dickeya solani in seed potatoes imported from the Netherlands.

Dickeya solani causes an aggressive form of the “blackleg” disease in potato crops. Following the 2010 detection of Dickeya solani in a local ware potato crop also grown from imported seed, the Department implemented a policy of testing all high risk imported stocks of seed potatoes for the presence of this potentially damaging disease.

Discussing the discovery of infected crops, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA said: "Following a meeting with the importer and growers we have ordered the immediate destruction of the infected crops and subsequent restrictions on the use of the land for potato production.

“While the discovery of any crop disease is always a worrying development for growers, I wish to re-assure the local industry that actions are being taken to ensure that this outbreak can be fully contained. The growers of the infected crops are aware of the situation and are working with my inspectors to put measures in place to ensure that the disease does not spread."

Highlighting the need for close co-operation in fighting the disease the Minister continued: “I would remind growers, merchants and seed importers that they should carefully consider the risks of introducing seed from areas known to have Dickeya solani. The continued freedom of the local industry from this damaging bacterial pathogen will maintain the competitiveness of our ware and seed industry. It will also enhance our reputation as a source of healthy seed potatoes."

In conclusion she added: "I wish to reassure the industry and general public that this situation is under control and I want to recognise the success of the surveillance and monitoring programme implemented by my quality assurance inspectorate that resulted in the early detection of this disease."

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