Eco-friendly solutions for the integrated management of late and early blight of potatoes
Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) is critical to global food security. Late blight (LB) caused by the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans and early blight (EB) caused by the fungal pathogen Alternaria solani are the main diseases affecting potato production. In Europe, LB accounts for over €1 billion losses in yield annually (Haverkort et al., 2008), whilst EB can cause over 20% yield loss (Abuley and Nielsen, 2017) and both diseases are currently managed through multiple applications of fungicides. Given the potentially negative impact of pesticides on the environment, problems of reduced efficacy due to increased pathogen resistance and the de-listing of many fungicides under the EU Pesticide Directive (2009/128/EC), there is an urgent need for a more sustainable long-term integrated pest management strategy. Here we explore the key components of such an IPM strategy for LB and EB that require development and testing to enable their successful implementation in the field.
With a current emphasis on sustainable agricultural production, biological control of plant pathogens is increasingly attractive. Several tools have emerged the last decade, but to date, biocontrol strategies remain difficult to use due to their unpredictable field performance and difficulties with their integration into current cropping systems. Thus, sole reliance on biocontrol approaches in potato crop protection is considered to be high-risk and, at present, conventional fungicides remain essential components of disease management strategies. However, there are clear opportunities to reduce the dose and application frequency of conventional fungicides through the integration of tools including biocontrol agents (BCAs), plant resistance inducers (PRIs), decision support systems and improved host resistance.
ECOSOL will integrate biological control into IPM programs to manage late and early blight. To reach this goal, the efficacy of various BCAs and PRIs to control disease development will be tested in planta and work will be carried out to understand their mode of activity in order to secure stewardship into the future. The importance of factors including timing of application and level of host resistance on their efficacy will be investigated. The most promising pesticide alternatives will be tested under field conditions in a range of participating countries to ensure transferability. Host Resistance is a critical component in any IPM strategy for the sustainable control of late blight but is often quickly overcome due to the genetic diversity in pathogen populations. The project will therefore optimise the deployment of existing and new sources of host resistance through understanding and monitoring pathogen characteristics that cause host resistance to be overcome in practice, testing the durability of key resistances across time and location and mitigating against new pathogen strains that threaten such resistance. ECOSOL will adapt decision support systems to tailor them for the integration of biocontrol agents and for both early blight and late blight management decision making. IPM strategies will be developed which include the most effective biological control agents with optimal timing of application, host resistance and reduced fungicide inputs. These strategies will be tested across a wide range of locations and by industry partners to ensure practical applicability. The success of the strategies will be measured in terms of early and late blight disease control with reduced pesticide usage compared with national conventional approaches.
The project encompasses strong stakeholder engagement to ensure alignment of experimentation, validation and demonstration aspects with industry requirements. This is supported by links to the established EuroBlight infrastructure which brings complementarity through unparalleled access to late and early blight expertise, industry contacts and dissemination activities.
Dr. Alison Lees
The James Hutton Institute, UK
Mr. Jens Grønbech Hansen
Aarhus University (AU), DENMARK
Dr. Hans Hausladen
Technische Universität München/School of life science, GERMANY
Dr. Mati Koppel
Estonian University of Life Sciences, Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, ESTONIA
Dr. Marjo Hokka
Perunan tuotannon tutkimus ja kehityssäätiö, FINLAND