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Disease Testing

This service is unique to seed supplied by Higgins. We recognise the need to supply material of the highest health status to our customers. This means that our parental material must multiply up as little disease as possible and the level of disease on our commercial stocks must be known.

A laboratory facility established at our minituber production site tests for a range of important diseases including ELISA testing of stocks for blackleg (Erwinia carotovara spp atroseptica) and incubation testing for gangrene (Phoma exigua) and dry rot (Fusarium).

Recent scientific advances mean that disease organisms can now be identified even when only very low levels are present in a sample. This technology is used in medicine, forensic science and in many other laboratory situations. The new technique is known as PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and allows tiny amounts of DNA to be multiplied up in the laboratory.

Disease Testing

We realised several years ago that this technology could be used to improve the health status of Scottish seed by identifying the presence and level of a range of important disease organisms.

A UK government funded project, with the Higgins Group as commercial partner, involving SCRI, Central Science Laboratory and with additional financial assistance from the BPC was concluded in 2002. Our contribution was to take the work done in this project to the point where a commercial test could be developed and used to promote UK potato seed health.

We now have a commercial PCR test for the blackleg organism and will be testing all of our 2003 stocks for this pathogen. To reach this point we have invested in new laboratory facilities and have recruited a microbiologist to our technical staff.

We are now working on developing tests for a range of other pathogens and further refining the experimental procedures.

Information from these tests will improve the health status of our seed and allow our customers to buy with confidence. Improved quality and reduced risk are two factors that will increase the chances of success in the demanding commercial environment we all operate in.

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