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“More potato virus cases suspected”

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Two cases of potato mop-top virus have been confirmed in Mid Canterbury, but many more are suspected, Biosecurity New Zealand says. The virus, confirmed in two crops last month, was found during routine sampling of material at a cooked-chip processing facility.

Biosecurity NZ now suspects 18 properties were affected and has expanded its testing nationwide. While not harmful to humans if consumed, the virus is a notifiable and unwanted organism in New Zealand.

According to, more than 60 potato industry members attended a meeting in Ashburton recently on September 25. This was the first meeting of Biosecurity New Zealand with industry representatives anywhere in the country.

The names and locations of the confirmed properties were not released to those at the meeting. However, growers were told it was found on processing growers' properties.

At some time, there was very little known about how to control it - growers just had to be wary of powdery scabs on the skins of potatoes. Now, growers in the district are keeping an eye on their crops, being kept up-to-date with developments.

Biosecurity New Zealand said two infected cultivars from the 2017-18 season had been found in Innovator and Russet Burbank variety potatoes. BNZ is working with national industry body Potatoes NZ to respond to the incident.

Biosecurity NZ said if widespread, the virus could cause productivity issues for growers. Their main focus should be to understand risks associated with its establishment in the country and minimise its impact with options to manage, contain or eradicate.