Warning on seed potatoes

NSW Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald is warning potato growers that they could be fined for bringing seed potatoes into the NSW Seed Potato Protected Areas without the approval of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

Restrictions on the entry of seed potatoes into certified seed growing areas were introduced under the Plant Diseases Act 1924 (Proclamation P128) to protect the industry from diseases that could threaten the production of our most popular vegetable.

It means written approval is required from the DPI’s Director, Animal and Plant Biosecurity for any seed potatoes brought into the Northern Tableland local council areas of Armidale/Dumaresq, Glenn Innes/Severn, Guyra and Walcha; and the Central West – Southern Tableland council areas of Bathurst Regional, Blayney, Cabonne, Goulburn Mulwaree, Oberon, Orange, Upper Lachlan and the parish of Murrimba in the Wingecarribee.

Nurseries and growers introducing seed potatoes are to immediately notify NSW DPI’s regulatory officers at their local DPI office to arrange for approval to be obtained.

NSW DPI Manager, Compliance Operations, Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr Andrew Sanger, encouraged all growers to use certified seed that has been grown under a seed potato certification scheme.

“It may be tempting for home gardeners and even commercial growers to use table or ware potatoes that have sprouted or non-certified seed potatoes, but it’s simply not worth the risk,” Dr Sanger said.

“Non-certified seed potatoes can carry a range of diseases which have the potential to decimate the State’s valuable potato industry.

“Diseases such as powdery scab and bacterial wilt and the pest potato cyst nematode are major concerns for the NSW potato industry and we need to do all we can to keep them out of the NSW Seed Potato Protected Areas of the Northern and Central West - Southern Tablelands districts.”

He said certified seed comes with a verifiable plant health status ensuring that virus-free tissue cultured plantlets have been used to grow the seed which is then multiplied in the field for five years.

“Certified seed growers are subjected to a rigorous paddock inspection prior to planting to ensure paddocks have not grown potatoes for at least five years, followed by two inspections during each growing season and tuber inspections prior to sale.

“Apart from giving a guarantee on the disease-free status, the scheme provides buyers with the confidence that they are buying quality seed that has been shown to produce better crops, and they are getting the variety they requested.”

The NSW seed potato industry produced 5,288 tonnes of seed potatoes, worth $2.3 million, in 2000-01 under the NSW Certified Seed Potato Scheme.

Australians consume around 68 kilograms per person each year, with about 72 per cent of the NSW crop sold fresh, 25 per cent processed and three per cent used for seed.

Growers wishing to obtain a Director’s approval to introduce seed potatoes into the NSW Seed Potato Protected Areas can do so by contacting Frank Tanner, NSW DPI regulatory officer at Armidale, on 0427 013 467 or for the Central West – Southern Tablelands Paul Anderson on 0427 110 637.