Identification of Inoculum Sources and Management of Soft Rot Disease of Potato caused by Dickeya and Pectobacterium

The pathogenic bacteria Dickeya spp. and Pectobacterium spp. cause soft rot on tubers or blackleg on stems of potato, resulting tuber loss in storage and no emergence of seedlings in the field. The 2015 outbreak of blackleg originated in Maine, and has caused severe consequences to potato growers in the state, especially to the seed growers. The infected tubers spread to the potato production regions wherever the Maine seeds were shipped. The economic losses were huge. To study the disease, a critical pathway is to identify the sources where the pathogen resides, survives and spreads. In this proposed study, we will conduct a series of surveys and trials to determine the major source of pathogen inoculum; develop a molecular technique using polymerase chain reaction; and test some potato varieties on their resistance to blackleg. The outcome will directly benefit Maine potato industry by providing disease detecting methods and management strategies to the growers, and the findings will be posted via the University of Maine Cooperative Extension website.

Investigators: Jianjun Hao and Steven B. Johnson

Award period: 5/1/2016–9/1/2017