West Australian potato disease threat stunts trade as growers warned spread ‘almost inevitable’ – ABC Rural – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
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West Australian potato disease stunts trade as growers warned spread ‘almost inevitable’
More than 5,000 tonnes of Western Australian seed potato could be dumped due to trade restrictions put in place to deal with the tomato potato psyllid (TPP) outbreak.
The Department of Agriculture and Food of WA (DAFWA) is currently assessing whether the bacterium Candidatus liberibacter solanacearum is present in the state, which has the potential to cause the damaging zebra chip disease in potatoes.
The psyllid was detected in the state last month, which was the first time it had ever been discovered in Australia.
DAFWA introduced new quarantine measures to help contain an outbreak of the psyllid last week as a national plan was released to help monitor and contain the movement of vegetables and seedlings.
The executive director of biosecurity and regulation for the department Kevin Chennell said the disease was going to prove difficult to eradicate.
“There’s national consensus that it’s going to be very difficult,” he said.
“We’re going to be trying very, very hard and working with industry and community to suppress and contain TPP [but] it may be very difficult to eradicate it.”
Western Australian Potato Seed Growers chairman and Albany-based grower Colin Ayres said the restrictions on trade for seed stock interstate was frustrating for the industry.
He said seed stock from WA would need to be exported to South Australia by May if it were to be viable.
“Although everyone’s been kept up-to-date, the wheels of any government move pretty slow,” he said.
“When there’s a timeline to where this product is of no use to anyone, growers do feel frustrated that decisions aren’t made quicker.”
Mr Ayres said growers could potentially be forced to dump 5,000 tonnes of seed stock if trade restrictions were not lifted.
New Zealand experience a warning
This is the first time TPP has been discovered in Australia but the psyllid was first detected in New Zealand more than a decade ago.
The psyllid spread from where it was initially detected on the North Island and was also detected on the South Island three years ago.
Potato industry consultant Dr Iain Kirkwood worked with New Zealand growers for the past five years in attempting to contain the psyllid and zebra chip disease, which can be found in potato crops across the country.
Dr Kirkwood works as a field officer for a seed potato company, Eurogrow Potatoes.
He said, from what he had seen of the spread of the zebra chip disease in New Zealand, he believed it was “almost inevitable” that the psyllid, and the disease if it was found, would spread.
“In terms of being able to manage the disease you have to identify that it’s there first,” he said.
“The disease is a really difficult one to deal with because it’s got so many different expressions.”
But Dr Kirkwood said Western Australian growers should not give up hope.
“Don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world [and] it can be managed,” he said.
“The North Island [of New Zealand] has had it for 10 to 12 years and they’re managing it quite effectively now.”
Dr Kirkwood said growers would need to “get into a cycle” of spraying and monitoring the disease.
He said there were more and more insecticides to manage the psyllid coming on to the market all the time.