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Penn State Potato Research Program

Our programs are committed to developing research-based information to support Pennsylvania potato production. Research focuses on potato germplasm evaluation and potato disease management.

Potato Research and Extension Faculty

Cultivar and Product Evaluation Team

Soft Rot and Blackleg Research


Blackleg and soft rot of potato in Pennsylvania | Image: Christopher Ramage, Penn State University

Although blackleg is an endemic disease of potato in Pennsylvania, the severity and extent of the disease in recent years has justified renewed interest in this disease. The Bull and Gugino laboratories collaborate with laboratories around the U.S. to describe the genetic diversity of pathogens that cause this disease and to develop novel management strategies. It is clear from surveys conducted by graduate student Christopher Ramage and others that in addition to the previously reported pathogens from the genus Pectobacterium, blackleg of potato is also caused by members of the genus Dickeya in Pennsylvania. Qu and colleagues plan to evaluate germplasm for resistance to blackleg and soft rot.

Verticillium Wilt Research

Diagnostics

We have developed specific and sensitive real-time PCR assays for several potato soil-borne pathogens such as Spongospora subterranea (causes powdery scab), pathogenic Streptomyces spp. (common scab), Helminthosporium solani (silver scurf), Colletotrichum coccodes (black dot), Verticillium spp. (verticillium wilt) and Rhizoctonia solani (black scurf). These PCR assays are being used for disease diagnoses and for the detection and quantification of pathogens in field soils and on tubers.

Cultivar and Product Evaluation

We cooperate with other potato breeding programs in the eastern U.S. to develop disease-resistant potato germplasm and new potato varieties. We also work closely with Pennsylvania potato growers and industry to identify new potato varieties that have adaptation to Pennsylvania regions and have qualities that are suitable for either processing or tablestock.