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Potato blackleg: Epidemiology, host-pathogen interaction and control

  • Bacterial Diseases
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Abstract

Blackleg is caused byErwinia carotovora subsp.atroseptica (Eca) andE. chrysanthemi (Echr) in cool and hot climates respectively. The bacteria are opportunistic pathogens and rely on their strong pectolytic character to infect plants when conditions favor their multiplication. Blackleg is a seedborne disease and the bacteria can survive in a quiescent form in lenticels and wounds during storage. The contaminated mother tuber and not the blackleg plant is the main source of progeny tuber contamination. Other sources of the pathogen are airborne (insects and aerosols) erwinias deposited on leaves and from there to the soil and progeny tubers, and erwinias in rotting tubers smeared into wounds incurred during mechanical crop handling.

Most seed tubers are contaminated but blackleg incidence is related to seed contamination level modulated by soil water status. Competitiveness of the erwinias in the rotting mother tuber is affected by temperature, Eca is favored at <25°C and Echr at higher temperatures. The ubiquitousE. carotovora subsp.carotovora apparently fails to compete successfully with the other erwinias and saprophytic pectolytic bacteria in mother tubers and therefore does not cause blackleg.

Disease control measures are based on avoiding tuber contamination by cultural means (early harvesting), reducing tuber contamination level (dry storage and hot water treatment) and planting ‘clean’ seed identified by quantifying tuber contamination rather than by visual crop inspection. Finally, recently identified highly resistant, even under anaerobic conditions, wildSolanum spp. could be used to breed for resistant cultivars by conventional methods or by genetic engineering.

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Pérombelon, M.C.M. Potato blackleg: Epidemiology, host-pathogen interaction and control. Netherlands Journal of Plant Pathology 98 (Suppl 2), 135–146 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01974480

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