Zebra chip is a newly emerging potato disease which imparts dark colorations on fried chips, rendering them unmarketable. The disease is associated with the phloem-limited proteobacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solancearum’, vectored by the potato psyllid Bactericera cockerelli. First reported from Mexico in the mid-1990s, the disease was observed for the first time in Texas in 2000 and is now prevalent in several potato-producing regions of the United States. In this study, we were interested in investigating whether there are edge effects in zebra chip intensity that can be assessed as a “foot print” of the associated insect vector. In 2009, we conducted studies in three fields in the Texas Panhandle in paired plots of 10 by 20 m around the field edges and 100 m infield in which symptomatic plants were counted just before harvest. The number of plot pairs (edge and infield) ranged from 15 to 18 depending on the size of the fields. In a separate study, temporal disease progress was assessed in two fields around the edges of the center-pivot circle in approximately 10-by-450-m areas. In 2010, the paired plot studies were repeated in 10 potato fields in Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska. Zebra chip intensity data from the paired-plot studies for both years were analyzed using the Wilcoxon's signed-rank test, a nonparametric equivalent of the classical (parametric) paired t test. In the 2009 study in all three fields, the edge plots had significantly greater zebra chip intensity than the infield plots (P < 0.05). Edge plots in the 2010 study also had greater zebra chip intensity in all fields and the differences were significant in the majority of fields (P < 0.05). In the diseases progress study in both fields, weekly zebra chip intensity on the edges reached its maximum after the third week of its first detection, and the disease progress curves were best fitted with the second-degree polynomial (quadratic) for both fields. The 2-year study clearly demonstrated that zebra chip intensity in potato fields was greater on the edges than in the infields. This finding has significant implications for psyllid management because greater emphasis in psyllid control strategy can be directed toward the edges for better results.
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