Aphid control can stem spread of potato viruses

It’s a matter of strategy for farmers, according to the Manitoba Co-Operator. While the pathogenic virus potato virus Y (PVY) isn’t new to the agricultural industry, the fact that the virus is changing is.

New strains have begun to emerge, once again bringing the management of possible spread of disease to the forefront for researchers and industry professionals.

“It’s a game changer,” said Tracy Shinners-Carnelley, director of research and quality enhancement for Peak of the Market.

There are four strains that are of concern: PVYO, PVYN, PVYNTN and PVYN:O.

Some strains of PVY may render the common table potato unrecognizable. Other strains cause foliar symptoms or necrotic rings on the surface of the potato. A crop infected with PYV can downgrade crop quality and cause seed certification issues.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

The disease is spread by aphids. Alone, aphids can cause decreased growth rates, low yields and even death. Also known as plant lice, aphids can only become more destructive if they are infected with a disease, as they often are — in fact, aphids are credited with spreading the late blight that affected potatoes during the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s.

With an issue as devastating as the famine in the back of their minds, farmers need to control the possible spread of PVY. The first step, according to Shinners-Carnelley, is planting virus-free seed.

“If you plant clean seed, meaning no PVY, and you have aphids colonizing and reproducing, they’re feeding on the crop, but not spreading the virus around,” she says.

All is not lost if the virus does exist in a field: farmers can monitor aphid populations to curb the spread.

That’s where a study from the Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development comes in. Headed by Vikram Bisht, the study involves monitoring populations using traps and providing weekly updates to growers. The goal is to help see what sort of methods may stop the infections. Insecticide, crop oils and other pest management strategies are all being monitored.

This coincides with research from Ian MacRae of the University of Minnesota, who says that aphids tend to settle on the edges before moving inwards. Testing the edges of crop may be the first step in creating an effective strategy against PVY.

“We should be proactive,” Shinners-Carnelley added. “Whether we’re growing fresh, processing or seed potatoes, we have to be aware of PVY, as it has the potential to cause economic damage to all those sectors.”

For information on products Neogen offers for testing for the pathogen, click here.

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