Strategies for Quantifying and Controlling Free Living Nematode Populations and Consequent Damage by Tobacco Rattle Virus to Improve Potato Yield and Quality

Lead Participant: Cygnet Potato Breeders Ltd.

Abstract

Free Living Nematodes (FLN) are emerging as a major problem for UK potato growers, exacerbated in the short term by removal of approved nematicides and in the long-term by expected population increases due to climate change. FLN cause direct damage by feeding on potato roots reducing yields and quality, and indirectly by transmitting Tobacco Rattle Virus (TRV). Relatively low levels of TRV infections can render entire crops unsaleable, both for the fresh and the processing industries. Current knowledge estimates the total loss to the UK potato industry to be >£13m p.a. FLN comprise a range of different taxonomic groups that are difficult to distinguish visually but vary significantly in terms of their distribution, pathogenicity and virus transmission frequencies, and have been to date under-studied in the UK. The problem is further compounded by beneficial and pathogenic FLN species co-existing, and thus accurate discrimination is essential. This project brings together a consortium of companies with a grower base of over 500 growers invloved in ware potato production seed both for use in the UK and export. In addition, a number of companies with potential methods for controlling FLN populations are included as partners. For the first time, a molecular diagnostic capable of distinguishing between the three main groups of FLN of interest will be developed, validated and deployed. This will be used to assess direct FLN feeding damage on a selection of commercial potato varieties as well as study effects on tuber quality and transmission of virus. In parallel, molecular markers will be developed to facilitate the breeding of new potato varieties with resistance to TRV.

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