The U.S. potato industry had farm-level sales of nearly $4 billion in 2013 and constitutes a vital segment of American agriculture. However, the economic sustainability of this industry is threatened by an emerging disease named Zebra Chip (ZC). ZC is putatively caused by a bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which is vectored by the potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli). The disease was named for the characteristic striping and discoloration in potato chips produced from infected tubers, but it affects all market classes of processing and fresh potatoes, by reducing both yield and quality. ZC was first reported in the US from South Texas in 2000, but now has spread to other major production regions across the western US and is widespread throughout Mexico, Central America and New Zealand. Insecticide-based management programs have been developed but the multiple applications required to ensure adequate vector control are expensive, environmentally undesirable and, for the long term, unsustainable.
In an effort to mitigate the impact of ZC disease outbreak, components of a response and recovery plan that include its etiology, epidemiology, detection, economics, and disease management strategies will be discussed. In addition, priorities needed in research, extension and education to this high consequence plant disease will be identified.
Charlie Rush is a Regents Fellow and Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society, stationed at the Texas A&M AgriLIfe Research and Extension Center in Amarillo, TX. His research program focuses on the ecology and epidemiology of emerging and long-term plant disease problems of regional and national significance, and his laboratory also provides plant disease diagnostic services, under the Great Plains Diagnostic Network. Most recently, Charlie’s research program has focused on mite vectored virus diseases of wheat (such as wheat streak mosaic virus and Triticum mosaic), fungal vectored virus diseases of sugarbeet (Rhizomania), and Zebra Chip of potatoes. The Zebra Chip Program received the USDA-NIFA Outstanding Grantee Award for Mission Integration.