New project to tackle Scotland’s PCN threat
Oct. 25, 2021
Scotland’s James Hutton Institute is to play a central role in a project to tackle potato cyst nematodes (PCN), a pest threatening the viability of the country’s valuable seed potato and bulb production sectors.
The October edition of Hutton Highlights, the magazine bringing readers up to date with activities at ENDURE’s Scottish partner, reports that the project will focus on protecting clean land and the management of land already infested with PCN. The project will be led by Scotland’s Plant Health Centre (PHC) and will receive £2.2 million of Scottish Government funding over five years, with some £470,000 being provided in the first year.
The project follows a report from a more than 50-strong working group established last year to identify a strategy to deal with PCN. The working group brought together not only academic partners but representatives from the industry and government.
The working group’s key recommendations will now be implemented by the new project team, which includes the James Hutton Institute, Scotland’s Rural College, Biomathematics & Statistics Scotland, SoilEssentials, Scottish Agronomy and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture.
Mairi McAllan, Scotland’s Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform, told Hutton Highlights: “This project is hugely important to the sector and the sector is hugely important to Scotland. It is predicted that if coordinated action is not taken now, Scotland’s bulb and potato industries may no longer be viable in the next 30 years due to the reduction in available non-infested land. We cannot let this happen.”
The James Hutton Institute’s Ian Toth, who led the working group and will lead the new project, told the magazine: “This is a fantastic example of how Scottish industry, government and academia can work together to solve important Scottish issues.”
Archie Gibson, of seed potato specialist Agrico UK, explained to the magazine that the project had been years in the making. “Following the introduction of harmonised soil testing standards for nematodes back in 2010, data gathered over subsequent years has shown the growing threat of PCN to the seed potato sector and a reduction in the availability of clean land,” he said.
“As effective crop protection products become ever more restricted this project, managed by the Plant Health Centre and supported by the Scottish Government, is essential for the future economic sustainability of the potato seed industry.”
The Scottish seed potato sector is worth £112 million annually but clean land for seed potatoes, as required by legislation, is being limited by the presence of PCN. It is estimated that production losses have reached £25 million annually with the future of the sector very uncertain by the time we reach 2045.
The project will begin with a detailed economic assessment and desk studies to better understand the reasons for the increase in PCN and the knowledge and tools that are available to tackle it. Hutton Highlights reports: “New sources of PCN resistance will be sought to help produce new resistant cultivars and other sustainable control options will be tested. The work will culminate in the production of a computer-based decisions support tool for the industry.
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