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Population studies of Pectobacterium atrosepticum: How it’s shaping our view of seed-borne vs environmental sources of infection

Ian Toth: James Hutton Institute

<div>Blackleg disease, caused by bacteria from the genera <em>Pectobacterium</em> and <em>Dickeya,</em> can lead to devastating losses in potatoes throughout the production cycle. Over the last several decades, there have been substantial improvements in tuber storage, certification and handling, helping to control contamination of the pathogen once on tubers. However, understanding the processes by which the bacteria contaminate tubers in the field or during handling, and how we might minimise this contamination is still not fully understood. We are thus investigating when and where contamination occurs in the field, and how different conditions (i.e. weather or handling) may exacerbate this contamination and lead to increases in disease incidence. Our focus has been on the first field generation (the highest grade seed), which is free from the pathogen when planted but often goes on to show incremental increases in disease development over subsequent generations. If we can learn how contamination occurs and which interventions might reduce it, we hope to be able to better control the incidence of blackleg disease in future crops.</div>

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