A new UK study predicts that the pressure of late blight in potato crops is likely to increase over the next 30 to 50 years due to climate change.
The study, published in Climate Risk Management, predicts that the key potato disease is likely to occur more often across the UK, with the greatest increases in western and northern regions.
In east Scotland, a region which currently has a high concentration of potato farming, potato blight may occur around 70% more often, according to the report.
Most potatoes are grown in the east of the UK, where potato blight occurs less often.
As such, there is likely to be smaller increases in blight of 20% to 30% in key potato-growing regions of England compared with today.
The study is based on a climate projection known as RCP 8.5: a high emissions future.
Commenting on the report, author Dr Freya Garry said: “Given the potentially serious consequences for UK farming, we felt it was appropriate to work with a high impact scenario.
“Even under lower emission pathways, we know that our climate will continue to change, so even if the impacts are smaller than identified in this study, our study provides useful information for adaptation planning,” she concluded.
The report highlights the risk to Irish potato growers.
The majority of the country’s potato crop is grown in the northeast, northwest and the south.
Blight pressure in a given season is relatively high in these areas at present.
Late blight thrives in warm, humid weather conditions.
As these conditions are set to increase in frequency and intensity over the coming years in Ireland, potato growers are likely to face bigger disease pressure challenges in the future.