Australia Seeking Disease Solutions

Published online: Sep 26, 2005
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The Victoria government will give A$1.45 million to a A$14.6 million five-year International program to seek solutions for the Australian potato industry's most pressing disease problems.

The processing potato research and development program will be a collaboration between the Victoria Department a of Primary Industries, the Australian processing potato industry, Horticulture Australia, the South Australian Research and Development Institute, the New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research, the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research and the Canadian government.

"The potato industry is vital for Victoria, with our processors producing potatoes suitable for manufacturing french fries, crisps and frozen or dried prepared products," State Agriculture Minister for Agriculture Bob Cameron told the 2005 national potato conference.

"The Australian processing potato industry is worth A$500 million a year, but growers and processors spend A$50 million a year on disease control," he said. "In Victoria, the industry is worth about A$180 million a year.

The major diseases are common scab, powdery scab and rhizoctonia, together with tomato spotted wilt virus and nematode pests.

"This program will address these disease problems using DNA technologies and disease resistance screening, as well as by managing the soil environment," Cameron said. "It will also improve our understanding of the effects of soil health and crop rotations on potato diseases."

Cameron said the program built on Victoria's strong record and expertise in potato disease research over the past two decades.

Arnotts Snackfoods national agronomy manger Allan Smith said disease was a major constraint to the production of processing potatoes and welcomed the government's investment in the new program.

"This program will not only address the current major diseases facing growers and processors, but will help us to deal with problems which may arise in the future, by improving our understanding of the soil environment and how it behaves in a cropping situation," he said.