Across Regions, Pests and Diseases, Research, Studies/Reports, Sustainability

Specialist: ‘Viruses pose a dire threat to successful potato production’

Potato is grown in more than 150 countries and is one of the most import food crops produced worldwide, with overall production of 381 million of tonnes (MT) in 2014. Before the 1990s, most potatoes were grown and consumed in Europe and North America.

Since then potato production and consumption have become more global with a dramatic increase in potato production and demand in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Since 2000 Africa has increased its share of global production from 4% to 7%, whilst Asia has increased its share from 37% to 49% during the same period.

In developing countries, out of the four major food crops (rice, wheat, potato and maize), potato has the greatest potential for yield increase; but a number of pathogens, including fungi, bacteria and viruses can limit this potential.

The impact of pathogens on potato production can be devastating in many parts of the world.

Breeding for agronomic and resistance traits, knowledge of pathogen species and their epidemiology, together with the development of accurate diagnostic methods, have been essential for the development of better crop management strategies, and helped certification programmes worldwide in maintaining high health standards.

Achieving high yields through good seed health is essential to both ensure a living for potato growers and to satisfy an increasing global demand for this staple food. However, in developing countries, there are still major challenges in achieving these goals and, in particular, obtaining high quality seed potatoes, appropriate agronomic skills, and cultivars that are adapted to a specific environment.

In developed countries, the challenge resides in increasing further harvestable yields for seed and ware potatoes to compensate for a decreasing arable surface area.

As an example of the challenges presented by disease, there are more than forty virus species that infect potato, and their differing epidemiology poses a significant challenge for their management and control worldwide. Amongst these species, insect-transmitted viruses are the major cause of crop degeneration worldwide.

Since potato is usually vegetatively propagated, pathogens such as viruses, most of which are systemic within the plant, can be transmitted from one generation to the next.

Despite the fact that modern management measures can be very successful, there are still instances when control of these pests is not as effective as it needs to be.

Our chapter presents the current state of knowledge on viruses that infect potato, their distribution, the challenges they pose to the industry and the means by which they can be managed and their impact of potato production reduced. The chapter provides guidance on developing efficient control measures to protect potato production.

Leaf and tuber symptoms caused by different virus species. Top left to right: Symptomatic potato plants infected by Potato leaf roll virus (PLRV), Potato aucuba mosaic virus (PAMV), Potato mop top virus (PMTV), Potato yellow vein virus (PYVV) and severe mosaic stunted plant caused by a mixed infection of Potato virus A (PVA) and Potato virus X (PVX). Bottom left to right: Tubers displaying potato tuber necrotic ringspot disease (PTNRD) caused by Potato virus Y (PVY), spraying symptoms caused by Tobacco rattle virus (TRV), tubers growth cracks caused by PVA (right panel). Click image to open in a new window/tab.


Author: Dr Christophe Lacomme, Senior Virologist – SASA, Edinburgh, UK.
See Ch 10 – Viruses affecting potatoes (Colin Jeffries and Christophe Lacomme), in Wale, S. (ed.), Achieving sustainable cultivation of potatoes Volume 2: Production, storage and crop protection, 2018, Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing, Cambridge, UK
Further details on this publication can be found here:

Lukie Pieterse, Editor & Publisher

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