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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Wapato, Washington » Temperate Tree Fruit and Vegetable Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #365798

Research Project: Systems Approach for Managing Emerging Insect Pests and Insect-Transmitted Pathogens of Potatoes

Location: Temperate Tree Fruit and Vegetable Research

Title: The beet leafhopper odyssey in North America: a brief overview

item Horton, David
item Cooper, William - Rodney
item Swisher Grimm, Kylie
item CROWDER, DAVID - Washington State University
item FU, ZHEN - Washington State University
item WATERS, TIM - Washington State University
item WOHLEB, CARRIE - Washington State University
item FROST, KEN - Oregon State University
item JENSEN, ANDREW - Washington State Potato Foundation
item BLUA, MATHEW - Washington State Potato Foundation

Submitted to: Potato Progress
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/8/2018
Publication Date: 12/12/2018
Citation: Horton, D.R., Cooper, W.R., Swisher Grimm, K.D., Crowder, D., Fu, Z., Waters, T., Wohleb, C., Frost, K., Jensen, A., Blua, M. 2018. The beet leafhopper odyssey in North America: a brief overview. Potato Progress. 18(16).

Interpretive Summary: Potato purple top, an economically important disease of potato in the United States, is transmitted to potato by the beet leafhopper. Researchers at USDA-ARS Wapato in Washington, in collaboration with scientists from Washington State University, Oregon State University, the Northwest Potato Research Consortium, and the Washington State Potato Commission conducted an extensive literature review of leafhopper biology to examine its historical appearance and spread into the potato growing regions of Washington and Idaho. The review documents the role of the early-1900s sugar beet industry in the insect’s spread and establishment, combined with invasion and spread of non-native plants from the Mediterranean contributing to establishment of the leafhopper in Washington and Idaho. This review advances our understanding of beet leafhopper behavior and ecology in the potato growing regions of Washington and Idaho, and should assist scientists and growers in understanding its feeding requirements and seasonal movements among host plants within potato growing regions of the Pacific Northwest.

Technical Abstract: In 2002, a disease in potatoes known as “purple top” emerged as an annual threat and management issue for Columbia Basin potato growers. Purple top is caused by a bacterium-like organism known as a phytoplasma (“beet leafhopper transmitted virescence agent" or “BLTVA”). Symptoms include leaf curling and purpling, aerial tubers, early die-down, yield losses, and declines in tuber quality. BLTVA is transmitted during the feeding activities of a small insect known as beet leafhopper. This article provides an overview of beet leafhopper and its biology in Washington State. The leafhopper story in potatoes actually began in the late 1800s in a different crop, sugar beets. Outbreaks of a serious disease in beets (“curly top”) later traced to beet leafhopper prompted a large research effort in the early- to mid-1900s to examine the leafhopper’s ecology in western North America. Beet leafhopper was found to have a bewilderingly complex life cycle, one that complicates managing purple top for today’s potato growers. This article includes an historical account of the beet leafhopper in western North America, a discussion of the insect’s life cycle, and a look at the role of non-native plant species in allowing residency of the leafhopper in the Basin.