HC Deb 13 June 1988 vol 135 cc51-2W
Mr. David Davis

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has made for the inspection of beet fields for rhizomania infection during the current season.

Mr. MacGregor

We will carry out a very extensive inspection programme throughout the country while the 1988 crop is growing. This will concentrate on sugar beet fields likely to be susceptible to rhizomania risk because of, for example, soil structure, poor irrigation or a history of low sugar yields. The fields will be identified by the local knowledge of inspectors, by British Sugar's records and by the results of aerial photography. Inspections will also be carried out on other fields of sugar beet and on fields of red and fodder beet.

To ensure that infection had not been spread from the farm in Suffolk where rhizomania was found last season, prior to the discovery, we will inspect all fields growing beet this year within 5 km of the site and also crops on the farms visited by the sugar beet contractor who worked on the farm between 1981 and 1987.

All these inspections will be carried out, under a joint programme, by the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate, Ministry field staff and British Sugar staff. Sample beets will be taken from each field inspected. These will be tested by the Ministry's Harpenden laboratory.

We expect this inspection programme to cover about 2,000 fields. It is a formidable task, but I am sure that it is justified in order to maintain our protection against rhizomania disease. It follows widespread surveys last year and programmes of inspection in the three previous seasons, which found no sign of rhizomania infection.

I am grateful to British Sugar for its co-operation in the inspections carried out in previous years and for the help it will again be providing in the coming season.

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