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BSPP Potato Workshop, July 2008, The Scottish Agricultural Science Agency (SASA), Edinburgh
We could not let the UN ‘International Year of the Potato’ (IYP) pass without some kind of recognition. A pathology workshop at SASA (thanks to our Programme Secretary), recognised by the IYP, gave the Society such an opportunity. It provided a great forum for our younger researchers to talk about their work, with the encouragement of a prize provided by the Potato Council.
After a brief introduction from the BSPP President, reminiscing about his postgraduate student days as a potato pathologist (on a grant of £600 p. a. from the Potato Marketing Board) the workshop got off to an excellent start with a paper from a past president, Stuart Wale, talking about risk management in potato production and the fundamental role that planning plays in ensuring that the risk of disease is reduced. Modern diagnostic techniques are enabling such planning to be more objective as they can provide information on soil contamination and also a greater understanding of the epidemiology of soil-borne pathogens, such as black dot (Colletotrichum coccodes).
The rest of the morning session was spent on offered papers, with speakers competing for the Potato Council prize. There was an excellent balance of papers on a whole range of pathogens, and the judges were impressed by the quality of the presentations and the way that questions were answered. The contestants were: Sonia Humphris (SCRI), Ellen Kerr (SASA), James Woodhall (CSL), Shuvash Bhattarai (Harper Adams), Adrian Fox (SASA) and Triona Davey ( S AS A) . A f t e r considerable discussion the judges decided to award two prizes, one to Sonia Humphris for her paper on Pectobactrium atrosepticum and the other to Adrian Fox, who spoke on transmission of potato viruses Y and A.
The afternoon was spent learning about SASA’s work in support of the potato industry. This was introduced by John Kerr, who talked about the Scottish Seed Potato Classification Scheme and the work SASA does to underpin this, including nuclear stock production and maintenance. Strict tolerances are applied for disease and trueness to type to Pre-basic and Basic classes of seed potatoes. This is very important in ensuring that Scottish seed can maintain its national and international reputation for quality. Participants then had the opportunity to visit the field plots and test their skills at identifying a range of viruses and ‘off types’, and also at differentiating between varieties.
A daunting task for many of us!