Incredible Vegetables have passed on some new biosecurity guidelines from DEFRA for people who grow Ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus). Ulluco is an increasingly popular (if tricky to grow), colourful Andean tuber. Because it is not widely commercially available, there is considerable informal trade in seed tubers.
DEFRA are now warning that non-native viruses have been identified in ulluco plants that are growing in the UK. These viruses have the potential to spread to, and cause damage in, other crops. There is no risk to human/animal health.
- DEFRA advise that ulluco that is currently growing be harvested only for personal consumption, and not sold or transferred to other sites, and that all tubers should be removed from the soil (easier said than done!). Tubers should not be stored for replanting.
- Plants from the Amaranthaceae, Cucurbitaceae and Solanaceae families that have been growing close to ulluco this year should also be harvested only for personal consumption, and seeds/tubers should not be saved for replanting.
- Plant waste from the affected species (and that includes vegetable peelings!) should be put in the landfill waste bin or burned, not composted.
- Garden tools should be thoroughly cleaned. Hands should be thoroughly washed after working with the affected plants.
- Any ‘volunteer’ potato or ulluco plants that emerge from undiscovered tubers next year should be removed and destroyed.
It’s too early to tell what this will mean for ulluco growing in the UK. It certainly implies that – if you were planning on growing ulluco next year – you will have trouble finding a source of seed tubers, and may want to think again. Whilst DEFRA’s advice may sound alarmist and draconian, please bear in mind that their goal is to protect the crops that feed us.