Published online: Apr 08, 2009
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Five growers in Shropshire are taking part in trials as part of research at Harper Adams University College funded by the British Potato Council.

The growers have each planted some five acres of Caliente 99 mustard seed that will be flailed, incorporated into the soil and sealed by rollers and left for at least 14 days before potato planting. Researchers will record potato cyst nematode egg numbers at each stage of the trial.

When chopped, mustard produces isothiocyanates, which are similar to the active ingredients in some chemical soil sterilants.

The University of Leeds is to test the potency of different mustard varieties.

Meantime the government's Central Science Laboratory reports a new project aims to research the organism Dickeya dianthicola, formerly known as Erwinia chrysanthemi, which causes slow wilt and soft rot in potatoes.

The spread of the organism has increased throughout Europe with warmer and wetter spring conditions favoring this bacterial pathogen.

Scientists at CSL have monitored the status of Dickeya in potatoes in England and Wales for 20 years and in 2007 the CSL used new molecular taxonomy techniques on the organism. More than 200 isolates of the pathogen from worldwide sources were taken and reclassified, revealing potatoes were globally being infected by four different species of the organism.

Now a project, initiated by the Scottish Government Rural and Environment Research and Analysis Directorate (RERAD), aims to protect the UK seed potato industry from infection.

Combining expertise from CSL, the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency and the Scottish Crop Research Institute, the project will study the biology of the organism and the risks involved in its spread, improving diagnostic techniques used to detect it.

CSL's involvement with RERAD is part of the laboratory's wider commitment to protect the reputation of UK and European potato industries, and to use its multidisciplinary expertise to increase understanding of the implications of global trade and climate change on plant health.