An aggressive strain of disease is a major threat to the country’s potato industry, a leading researcher has warned.

    It has also spread rapidly across Europe in just seven years since it was first identified in eastern Poland in 2005, said Dr Mike Storey, the Potato Council’s head of research and development.

    The seed-borne disease, now renamed dickeya solani and closely related to traditional blackleg, causes soft rots and severe damage to tubers.

    While dickeya was widely distributed around the world, it was this aggressive type, which was now of particular concern to the UK industry, he said.

    Compared with the rest of Europe, Britain has made a stand to control the spread and incidence of dickeya, said Dr Storey.