Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Production Research
Scientists develop new technique to combat potato scab


March 7, 2008
By Fruit & Vegetable

Topics

Researchers have developed a way
of controlling Streptomyces scabies (also known as potato scab),
according to a recent article in Microbiology Today.

Researchers have developed a way of controlling Streptomyces scabies (also known as potato scab), according to a recent article in Microbiology Today.

By using DNA sequencing to make pathogen-specific probes, researchers are able to detect and count the deadly bacteria in soil and on plant surfaces and
advise growers on the best method of disease control.

Advertisment

Currently, there are more than a dozen different kinds of scab-producing Strepto-myces that affect potato crops worldwide. These filamentous pathogens can penetrate expanding plant cells, including potato tubers, producing raised or pitted scab-like lesions.

S. scabies is pathogenic due to its ability to produce thaxtomin, a protein that breaks down the walls of growing cells. Thaxtomin is encoded on a short segment of DNA transferred during mating. This gives the bacterium the ability to infect any elongating part of a plant that is underground. It is these thaxtomin biosynthethic genes that have been used to develop the pathogen-specific probes.

The potato crop is propagated vegetatively and when infected seed tubers are shipped around the globe, the harmful bacteria get a free ride to new production areas. It is not uncommon to find more than one scab-producing species in the same place, and by using the new probes, scientists can target all known variants. With further advancements in DNA analysis, even better techniques to identify these pathogens and prevent disease may be developed in the future.