E. Chiunga, Uyole Agricultural Research Institute (ARI-Uyole), P.O. Box 400, Mbeya, Tanzania; and
J. P. T. Valkonen, Department of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 27, University of Helsinki, FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland. Support of the staff of ARI-Uyole, International Potato Center (CIP), and D. Mbanzibwa (ARI-Mikocheni), and financial support from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (project 28234801) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives of Tanzania
Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) is an increasingly important food and cash crop in Tanzania (3). Potato production is concentrated in the southern highlands and mainly carried out by smallholder farmers. A certification system for seed potatoes does not exist in the country. Currently, there is little information about viruses infecting potatoes in Tanzania. In October through December 2011, occurrence of the most common, globally distributed potato viruses, Potato leaf roll virus (PLRV), Potato virus A (PVA), M (PVM), S (PVS), Y (PVY), and X (PVX) (1), was determined in 219 potato plants in 16 fields ranging from 0.2 to 1 ha. Potato crops, 1 to 3 months old, consisted sometimes of mixtures of varieties identified as Arika, Chekundu, Kagiri, Kiazi, Kikondo, Sasamka, or Tigoni by farmers, but could not be independently confirmed. The fields were located in the regions of Mbeya (Kawetele, Kikondo, Umalia, Uyole) and Rungwe (Mwakaleli) ~100 km apart in the southern highlands. Virus-like symptoms observed in most fields included yellowish-green mosaic, leaf rolling, and veinal necrosis. Symptoms in tubers were not studied. Leaves from 10 symptomatic and three symptomless plants were sampled from each field and tested by double antibody sandwich (DAS)-ELISA (1) at ARI-Uyole. Virus-specific antibodies and negative and positive controls were used according to the supplier's instructions (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, Edinburgh, United Kingdom). PVS and PLRV were detected in 55% and 39% of the samples, respectively, and in all fields sampled. PVX and PVM were found in most fields and in 14% and 5% of the samples, respectively. PVA and PVY were only detected in two localities. Co-infection with PVS and PLRV was detected in 14% of the tested plants. Mixed infections involving three or four viruses were detected in 5% of the plants. A total of 20 samples, which were collected from Uyole and Mwakeleli and found to be ELISA-positive for one or several viruses, were pressed on FTA cards (GE Healthcare, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom), transported to University of Helsinki, and analyzed by reverse-transcription PCR (2) using virus-specific primers designed to amplify the coat protein (CP) encoding region. All ELISA-positive samples tested positive by reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR. Four and five samples ELISA-negative for PVX or PVA, respectively, were positive when tested by RT-PCR, suggesting that the actual incidence of these viruses may be higher than detected by DAS-ELISA. The PCR products from three to five samples per virus were sequenced without cloning, which reconfirmed detection of PLRV, PVA, PVS, PVX, and PVM (GenBank Accession Nos. KC866618 through KC866622, respectively) and revealed few if any differences among isolates of the viruses. The CP sequences were compared with viruses from other countries and continents (4). CP similarities suggested that viruses might have been introduced to Tanzania through potato trade or through introducing new cultivars without adequate indexing for viruses. These results suggest the need for the development of virus control schemes in potato crops, including the nascent, domestic certified seed potato production in Mbeya.
References: (1) G. Loebenstein et al., eds. Virus and Virus-Like Diseases of Potatoes and Production of Seed Potatoes. Kluwer, Dortrecht, Netherlands, 2001. (2) J. Ndunguru et al. Virol. J. 2:45, 2005. (3) J. Rahko. Potato Value Chain in Tanzania. Univ. Helsinki, Finland, 2012. (4) K. Tamura et al. Mol. Biol. Evol. 28:2731, 2011.