Significance and Epidemiological Aspects of Late-Season Infections in the Management of Potato Zebra Chip.
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Zebra chip (ZC) of potato is putatively caused by the fastidious, phloem-limited bacterium 'Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum' (Lso), which is transmitted by the potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli). The disease, which significantly impacts both crop yield and quality, was first identified in the United States from south Texas in 2000. It reached epidemic levels in north Texas and certain production areas in Colorado, Nebraska, and New Mexico from 2004 to 2007 and it caused severe losses in fields in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho in 2011. The potato plant is susceptible to infection at all developmental stages, but disease management programs have focused on vector control through early and repeated insecticide applications, in an effort to minimize early to midseason infections which are most damaging. Growers often terminate spray programs 2 to 3 weeks prior to crop harvest due to lack of visible treatment effects on crop yield or quality. However, recent studies on vector transmission and host-pathogen interactions have revealed that late-season infections pose a significant, previously unrecognized, threat to crop quality. The pathogen can move from an infected leaf to tubers within 2 days; however, tubers infected less than 1 week before harvest will remain asymptomatic and the pathogen will be undetectable. When these tubers are placed into storage they are assumed to be disease free. However, Lso can continue to multiply in respiring tubers during storage, resulting in reduced tuber quality. Likewise, if plants become infected a few days before vines are killed, ZC can continue to develop in infected tubers before they are harvested. Perspectives on the significance of late-season infections and some of the more important issues associated with those infections are discussed.