Predicting the risk of PVY transmission to seed potatoes by relating historical aphid catches to weather- and climatic-variables

Seed potato production in the Netherlands depends heavily on an early warning system for aphids – the main vector of PVY and other viruses – to produce disease-free seed stock. However, weather conditions and climate change influence overwinter survival of parthenogenetic populations of aphids, their flight patterns, timing of highest activity and peak densities of winged aphids. These, in turn, influence the transmission probability of PVY and thus the quality of Dutch seed potatoes.

Over the last 30 years, the NAK (Dutch General Inspection Service) has gathered a unique data set containing information on aphid numbers caught over the season. To date, these data have not successfully been analyzed or related to climatic- and weather- variables. Potentially, climatic variables could predict, for example, the onset of aphid flight, the duration of flight or peak numbers, as shown in British research. This could lead to the development of a model that quantifies the risk of virus transmission by aphids. Such a model would greatly support seed potato growers in their decision making for aphid control.

Following the British research efforts, in this study a subset of the NAK data (e.g. specific aphid species) will be analyzed using survival analysis or related to climatic/weather variables using regression analysis to find the model that best explains the observed flight patterns.

The study is part of a larger ongoing study in which the goal is to a) provide tools to the seed potato sector (growers, advisers, NAK) to better assess the risk of PVY infections and 2) analyze the production chain and develop strategies to better tackle the virus (vector).

Used skills

  • Exploring literature
  • Writing
  • Analysing data with survival analysis, building a dynamic state variable model


Courses Statistics I and II, basic entomology, good eye-sight, basic lab skills, and preferably driver’s license


Between 24 and 39 credits.