Spud growers spit chips over new bacteria threat

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Ben HarveyThe West Australian

WA potato growers have been hit by a fresh disease scare, with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development yesterday warning farmers a new, aggressive bacteria had been detected.

Department irrigated agriculture executive director John Ruprecht said the bacteria Dickeya dianthicola, which causes the diseases blackleg and soft rot, had been found in a commercial crop north of Perth.

While the two diseases are already in Australia, it is the first time Dickeya dianthicola has been found. The bacteria was more aggressive and caused disease at lower infection levels, the department said.

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“The department has measures in place to contain the bacteria and is carrying out tracing and surveillance to determine its spread,” Mr Ruprecht said.

Yesterday’s warning came after WA growers were shut out of the east coast because of the detection this year of the tomato potato psyllid.

The property where the bacteria was found is under quarantine as are three other properties, including two in the South West.

Other host plants included globe artichoke, chicory, dahlia and flaming Katy, the department said.

Dickeya dianthicola is found on potatoes in Europe and the US. Growers are being urged to report unusual plant symptoms to the Pest and Disease Information Service on 1800 084 881.

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