Rather than hitting potato psyllids with a barrage of insecticides, one Texas AgriLife Extension plant pathologist wants to take a kinder, gentler approach.
Ron French is leading a group trying to manage symptoms of zebra chip disease, which is spread by potato psyllids, using alternative approaches and biological control, according to a news release.
His work is part of the much larger Zebra Chip Specialty Crop Research Initiative.
French and his group are looking at three different approaches: bactericides, boosting plant defense responses and plant nutrients.
His goal is to eliminate disease symptoms in both tubers and plants. He also seeks to improve plant health to help negate the effects of the psyllid, bacterium, disease or pesticide used to control the pest.
Although French has had promising results the past two years using a foliar-applied bactericide to control the pathogen within psyllid populations and potato fields, registration may be a challenge.
Currently, bactericides for potatoes are only labeled for seed treatments.
To boost plant defense responses, French is trying to induce something like a systemic acquired resistance (SAR) or induced systemic resistance response from the potato against the pathogen.
He is looking at several compounds to see if they will trigger the mechanism within the plant.
French also is looking at using micro- and macro-nutrients to help offset the damage caused by zebra chip.
"In the past two years we actually had very good results with a combination of micro- and macro-nutrients that were applied bi-weekly after flowering on the potato," French said in the release. "We saw a 43 percent total yield increase in 2012 and a 45 percent increase in 2013 in comparison to the control or regular grower practices."