A new awareness campaign is being launched to remind the public that importing potatoes for planting is against the law and can risk introducing pests to other Island crops.
The campaign aims to increase public awareness of the risk posed to local plant and tree health through irresponsible or illegal importation of restricted plant-derived material.
The Department of the Environment’s Entomologist and Head of Plant Health, Scott Meadows, said: “It is important that the public are aware of the risks of introducing serious pests such as the Epitrix potato beetle. Should this pest enter Jersey and establish in local crops, the damage caused would be costly and eradication would be difficult. Conditions would be placed on exports of Jersey Royal Potatoes to the UK, slowing harvests and hampering the potato season.
“The adult beetles feed on the foliage producing small, scattered shot-holes, which can occasionally be so severe as to depress yield. The larvae feed on the root system and some species also feed on the tubers, which causes the most serious damage. The quality and value of the tubers is lowered and if the feeding damage is severe, it can render the whole crop unmarketable.”
The Department of the Environment will be working with Ports of Jersey, the Customs and Immigration Service and travel agents conducting direct charter flights to and from risk areas to ensure travellers are aware of the Epitrix potato beetle and the caution required when moving plant material.
The importation of potatoes for planting is prohibited under Plant Health Regulations unless the stock has been officially certified free of regulated pests and diseases. The public are also asked not to bring back fruit or plants of aubergine, pepper or tomato from affected areas.
Epitrix potato beetles are native to North America but have been found in Portugal and Spain causing damage to potato crops. Epitrix is a regulated pest with specific requirements placed on potatoes moving from areas where the pest is present including some countries outside the EU, Spain and Portugal.
Mr Meadows added that people should also exercise caution when returning from rural areas in affected countries and ensure that footwear and clothing does not carry excessive soil as this may provide an introduction pathway for eggs or larvae of Epitrix.