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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Ithaca, New York » Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture & Health » Emerging Pests and Pathogens Research » Research » Research Project #435905

Research Project: Updating Potato Seed Certification Practices to Effectively Manage Emerging Virus Disease Issues

Location: Emerging Pests and Pathogens Research

Project Number: 8062-22000-022-026-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 15, 2019
End Date: Aug 14, 2020

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES: The overall objective of this project is to provide seed certification with protocols for determining virus disease incidence estimates using dormant tuber testing and to help with the implementation of the new procedures based on industry needs and risk tolerances. This will also aid in the development of other pathogen-specific assays. Specific objectives are: 1. Compare virus detection efficiencies in tubers using the recently developed PCR based assays versus visual or ELISA-based assessments of foliar disease. 2. Obtain information from growers regarding their willingness to accept changes to seed certification with an emphasis on cost, effort, information availability, and risk tolerances.

EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: Objective 1. PVY incidence is, for the most part, the only virus data that seed certification programs routinely use for certifying seed lots. No program currently tests for TRV or PMTV, and it is not possible to visually assess incidence of these viruses. Visual assessment is the primary means to determine PVY incidence although several certification programs follow-up with ELISA testing of foliage. Only one program, Maine, is testing tubers directly and the program uses ELISA testing of sprouts. Our experiments will focus on newly harvested dormant tubers as the starting testing material. Preliminary experiments have identified seed or commercial potato fields in CO and WI that are infested with viruliferous vectors of TRV and PMTV and generate a potato crop with high incidence of virus infected tubers. Objective 2. Implementation of new testing protocols will only be successful if the potato industry, notably seed growers and seed buyers, advocate for the change. This will require a campaign that can provide the industry with solid data that the new protocols: a) are as good or better than current protocols, b) they will provide high quality seed, and c) that information is provided in a timely manner that facilitates seed purchases and farm planning. To this end we plan to work with the Cornell University Institute for Social and Economic Research to survey growers and pertinent industry representatives to understand their needs and their tolerance for changes in protocols including sample collection, sample processing, data distribution and costs. These data will facilitate the development of final diagnostic protocols and the design of the outreach campaign needed to implement formal changes in seed certification practices. The proposed project has the potential to guide a transformative change in U.S. potato seed certification programs. To enable the programs to provide more reliable virus and other disease incidence estimates to growers shortly after harvest without the need for winter grow out plots that are subject to the vagaries of weather. Growers would have the option to collect and provide tuber flesh samples on the farm and avoid the cost of shipping tubers. Once samples are saved on the FTA cards they can be tested for an array of pathogens that will vary from year to year. Samples can be stored for months and retested as needed. Current seed certification practices cannot reliably determine incidence of many emerging or chronic pathogens responsible for the degradation of seed quality. Competitive and sustainable seed potato certification programs need new options to manage and maintain a reliable supply of high-quality seed potatoes for domestic use and for international trade.