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International Year of Plant Health 2020

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th November 2019.

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Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Absolutely. I am grateful to the member for that question, because, as I highlighted in my response to Claudia Beamish, that is a valuable and important sector to Scotland. That is why maintaining the high health status of our seed potatoes is vital.

The news about potato cyst nematodes will have reached the news this week. In line with EU directives, Scottish Government scientists test all fields that are used for seed-potato production for the presence of cyst nematodes in the soil. Only fields that test clear for PCN can be used for seed potato production.

Our research partners, the James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College, undertake research on control strategies, including breeding for resistance to nematodes. Scotland’s Plant Health Centre is working with stakeholders to determine why the problem is increasing and to identify likely future scenarios, to inform the industry. Through the rural innovation support service, a consortium is working to develop innovative control strategies to safeguard the long-term future of our potato industry. Also, as part of the international year of plant health, one ministerial round-table event with industry will focus on the threat to Scotland from nematode pests, including PCN.

I was not aware of the strategies that are being used in Germany, which Rachael Hamilton raised; of course, if there are strategies being put in place in other countries, we have to look at them and see whether we can learn from them.

We do not take the threats lightly. Work is continuing in order that we can tackle these problems.