Prevention of bacterial diseases in seed potato cultivation by increasing knowledge of infection sources and transmission routes

April 4, 2023

Bacterial disease caused by soft-rot bacteria is one of the most important diseases in seed potato cultivation. A crop grown from clean mini tubers (PB1) can already become heavily infected during the growing season, depending on location and weather conditions. Only limited knowledge exists about the sources of infection and the transmission routes responsible.

A previous Top Consortium for Knowledge and Innovation (TKI) research project showed that about 1 in 50 insects in a PB1 crop was infected with the pathogen. In rainwater and in soil collected from a heavily infested plot, the bacterium was not detected.

Sources of infection and transmission

On April 1, 2023, a new TKI project will start to further investigate the relative importance of infection sources and transmission routes of soft-rot bacteria. Again, several potential sources of infection (rainwater, soil, weeds, sugar beet, green manures and insects) will be examined for infections to identify the source. It is being determined whether infections can be prevented by cultivating PB1 plants in a mesh cage that prevents insect infections. Molecular techniques (metagenomics) are used to determine if the pathogens from the source of infection and the PB1 crop are genetically identical.

Control of bacterial disease

Field experiments are being conducted in Wageningen to determine the minimum distance between a PB1 crop and lower classes of seed potatoes needed to prevent infections. They are also looking at which buffer crops (grain, sugar beet) should be used to reduce the risk of spreading the pathogen. There are still questions about the risks of selecting bacterially diseased plants. On the one hand, an infection source is removed, but on the other hand, potential smearing (deformation of the soil when it is almost completely saturated with water, causing the soil to lose its structure) occurs during selection operations. This will also be investigated in field experiments in Wageningen.