Scientists Focus on Zebra Chip

Published online: Aug 23, 2017 Articles Lukie Pieterse
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For the past several years, many potato researchers in several countries around the world have been focusing on the problem of zebra chip disease of potatoes, and the insect that transmits this disease to potato tubers, the potato psyllid. Zebra chip became a serious problem for many potato growers and processors alike during the past few years in many potato-producing countries, including in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand

Zebra chip is caused by the Liberibacter bacterium and is spread by tiny, winged insects called potato psyllids. It creates bands in tuber flesh that darken during frying. University of Idaho (UI) researchers are studying reflections of various light wavelengths off of zebra chip-infected potatoes, seeking to devise a quicker and more precise method of quantifying disease prevalence.

UI Extension entomologist Arash Rashed and his collaborators have been using a spectrometer—a device that records signatures of reflected light wavelengths—to evaluate infected tubers from other UI zebra chip experiments for comparison with healthy tubers. Xi Liang, a UI cropping systems agronomist, is assisting with spectrometer analysis; Zhiguo Zhao, a visiting scientist from China, is developing a computer model based on the data to predict the progression of zebra chip infection without frying. Rashed said Zhao’s software should also enable the industry to estimate the growth stage in which infections occurred and predict the further development of zebra chip symptoms in storage. Rashed hopes to have initial results in October to justify a larger grant for his research, and he anticipates working with UI Extension storage specialist Nora Olsen on storage trials, using Zhao’s model.

A new portable diagnostic tool for identifying the devastating zebra chip disease may bring faster and more accurate results to stem its spread, according to New Zealand scientists. Grant Smith is a plant pathologist with the Plant and Food Research Institute in New Zealand and has been working on developing the tool. He said current tests were not accurate enough. Plant and Food Research have been using a genomic approach to develop the new diagnostic tool. According to Smith, the new technology would also be portable and cut waiting times from two to three days to roughly 30 minutes.

The use of fine mesh covers could be the answer to controlling the potato psyllid. Charles Merfield, the head of the BHU Future Farming Centre in New Zealand, has been researching the use of mesh in potato crops. He believes the problem of the psyllid may be solved. The latest research by the farming center compared an agrichemical program with three meshes of different hole sizes: 0.3, 0.4 and 0.7 millimeters. Agrichemicals left a total of 1,614 psyllids, while the meshes had four, five and three psyllids.

For more information about psyllid research projects around the world, read these news articles:

Researchers investigate scanners for diagnosing zebra chip

Zebra chip disease: Portable diagnostic tool breakthrough aims for fast, accurate results

What Is the Source of Potato Psyllids Colonizing Potato Fields in the Pacific Northwest?

Mesh ‘stunning’ in control of tomato potato psyllid


Source: Potato News Today