New threat to potato crops

Cecilia AllenManjimup-Bridgetown Times

Warren-Blackwood potato growers have been warned about a new aggressive bacteria that could cause significant production loss in crops.

Dickeya dianthicola can cause disease such as soft rot of blackleg in potatoes.

Although Blackleg of potatoes caused by existing bacteria already occurs in Australia, Dickeya dianthicola is more aggressive and causes disease at lower infection levels.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development WA confirmed the bacteria’s presence in a commercial potato crop north of Perth, which is now under quarantine.

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Another property in the South West is also suspected to have the bacteria and has been quarantined.

Department Irrigated Agriculture executive director John Ruprecht said the department had measures in place to contain the bacteria and is carrying out tracing surveillance to determine its spread.

“The department will be working with the WA industry and national stakeholders to minimise the impact of the pest,” he said.

WA Potatoes chief executive officer Simon Moltoni said properties with quarantine notices are unable to sell their crops.

“As an association, one of our main priorities is to ensure market access is available to those growers where it is reasonable and fair to do so,” he said.

“We have to be careful with what we do because the way biosecurity works is that it’s one rule for everyone.”

Mr Moltoni said there is bacteria from the same family as Dickeya dianthicola that exists in Australia already.

“We’ve been managing that within the industry through good hygiene practice and particularly the seed scheme,” he said.

“So we believe we can manage this.

“Tomato potato psyllid has sort of ruined our market access nationally so those biosecurity grounds we have in place dictate to a degree how we react to this.”

News of the new biosecurity threat comes as Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan announced a $1.5 million recovery fund to explore market opportunities for growers affected by TPP trade restrictions.

Slimy, black rot lesion is a characteristic symptom of blackleg.

While potatoes are its main host, it can also infect globe artichoke, chicory, dahlia and flaming Katy.

Growers should report any unusual plant symptoms to the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service on 1800 084 881.

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