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Evaluation of Beet Leafhopper Transmitted Virescence Agent Damage in the Columbia Basin

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Potato purple top disease is caused by a phytoplasma known as Beet Leafhopper Transmitted Virescence Agent (BLTVA), which is vectored by the beet leafhopper (BLH, Circulifer tenellus Baker). Previous studies determined that BLTVA can cause significant reductions in yield and tuber quality; however, quantifying the damage caused by BLTVA and the insect vector has been challenging. In 2009–2011, potato plants at different growth stages were exposed to varying densities of BLH in a screen house located at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Hermiston, OR. The densities of potentially infective BLH were one BLH per plant (low), two BLH per plant (medium), and five BLH per plant (high). Releases occurred at the following growth stages: vegetative, tuber initiation, tuber bulking, and maturation. The treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design with three replications per treatment. Disease incidence was monitored weekly and yield was assessed. When all 3 years were combined, we found that increasing rates of disease incidence correlated with decreasing yields. We also found that greater yield losses were observed with later BLH release times. With both correlations, differences between years were a strong contributing factor. There was a mean decrease in yield of 0–12 % at a density of one BLH per plant, 6–19 % at two BLH per plant, and 6–20 % for five BLH per plant. These general trends in yield loss suggest that economically relevant damage may occur at levels as low as one or two potentially infective BLH per plant in the Columbia Basin.


La enfermedad de la punta morada es causada por el fitoplasma conocido como agente de virescencia transmitido por la chicharrita de la remolacha (BLTVA por sus siglas en inglés). El vector es el chicharrita saltador conocido como chicharrita de la remolacha (BLH, Circulifer tenellus Baker). Estudios previos determinaron que BLTVA reduce la calidad del tubérculo y la producción del cultivo de la papa; sin embargo, la determinación de valores de daño han sido difíciles de investigar. Para responder esta pregunta, en la temporada de campo del 2009–2011, plantas de papa de diferentes estados de desarrollo fueron expuestas a diferentes densidades de la plaga en un invernadero en la Estación Experimental de Investigación y Extensión de Hermiston (Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center) en Hermiston, OR. Los niveles de infestación fueron de un BLH por planta (nivel bajo de infestación), dos BLH por planta (nivel medio de infestación), y cinco BLH por planta (nivel alto de infestación). Las infestaciones ocurrieron en la etapa vegetativa del cultivo, a la iniciación de la tuberización, durante la formación del tubérculo y durante la maduración del tubérculo. Los tratamientos fueron organizados como bloques al azar con tres repeticiones por tratamiento. La incidencia de la enfermedad fue monitoreada cada semana y la producción fue estimada. Datos combinados sugieren que el incremento en el número de BLH por planta correlaciona positivamente con la producción del cultivo. La diferencia entre años también influyó para ambas correlaciones. La disminución en la producción del cultivo correlaciona con infestaciones tardías de BLH. Hubo una diminución en la producción del cultivo de 0–12 % con infestaciones de un BLH por planta, de 6–19 % con dos BLH por planta y de 6–20 % con cinco BLH por planta. Datos sugieren que el daño económico occurre a un nivel de uno o dos BLH por planta en la zona de la rivera del Columbia.

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We would like to acknowledge Dr. Jim Crosslin (USDA-ARS, Prosser, WA) and Aymeric Goyer (OSU-HAREC) for providing assistance with initial analysis of leaf samples for BLTVA. We are grateful to Amanda Smith, Tanner Keys, Mary Adams, Jonathan Macias, Kortney Sweek, and Sneha Callah for providing technical assistance in sample collection and analysis. We would also like to gratefully acknowledge funding from the Oregon and Washington State Potato Commissions. We appreciate the contributions from multiple anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Silvia I. Rondon.

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Murphy, A.F., Rondon, S.I., Marchosky, R. et al. Evaluation of Beet Leafhopper Transmitted Virescence Agent Damage in the Columbia Basin. Am. J. Potato Res. 91, 101–108 (2014).

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