New Agreement Takes Aim at Potato Pest and its
By Jan Suszkiw
May 14, 2010
Developing a chemical attractant to
monitor and manage the potato psyllid is the goal of a new cooperative
agreement signed in March between the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the
University of California (UC) at Riverside.
The potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli, causes harm to potato
plants by feeding on them and by infecting them with Candidatus
Liberibacter solanacearum, the bacterial culprit behind zebra chip
disease. The name zebra chip refers to the dark stripes that form
inside affected potatoes that are sliced and fried to make chips. Outbreaks of
zebra chip fueled by psyllid feeding have caused millions of dollars in losses
to the potato industries of the United States and Mexico. The disease also is
problematic in New Zealand.
Spraying insecticide is the primary control method for preventing outbreaks
of the psyllid and transmission of disease. But determining where and when to
spray based on psyllid migration patterns or movements can be difficult, due to
the lack of an effective monitoring tool. Besides ratcheting up production
costs, ill-timed spraying can endanger beneficial insects and can increase the
potential for the development of pesticide resistance by the psyllid.
Under a six-month cooperative agreement with UC entomologist Jocelyn Millar,
ARS and university scientists will seek to isolate, identify, synthesize and
test the specific chemical or chemicals that females use to attract mates.
According to entomologists
Guédot at the ARS
Agricultural Research Laboratory in Wapato, Wash., synthesizing such
attractants opens the door to developing a new, psyllid-specific monitoring
tool. Strategically placed around potato fields, attractant-laced traps would
enable growers to capture male psyllids and determine when the insects are
colonizing fields. Growers could then plan insecticide regimens accordingly.
The agreement between UC-Riverside and ARS is a pooling of resources and
personnel that leverages Millars research on insect chemical ecology with
the Wapato teams behavioral assay studies.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This
research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.