Powdery scab caused by Spongospora subterranea is a serious disease, affecting both the quality and quantity of ware and seed potatoes, particularly in northern Britain where soil conditions are conducive to disease development. To enable accurate quantification of S. subterranea DNA for epidemiological studies, a real-time PCR assay specific to this pathogen was developed. This assay could reliably detect and quantify DNA from sporeballs, zoospores and plasmodia/zoosporangia of S. subterranea. The assay was used to measure the viability of sporeballs in soil, was combined with a tomato bait plant technique in order to study zoospore release and was used to study infection levels in potato under various environmental conditions. Both the incidence and severity of powdery scab were found to be influenced by temperature, soil type and soil moisture regime when tested under controlled conditions. Soil inoculum level did not have a significant effect on infection and disease development and even low levels of inoculum were regularly found to result in severe disease symptoms. Evidence from A GB-wide trial and a five year survey in England and Wales confirmed that there is no simple or consistent relationship between powdery scab inoculum on seed and disease developing on the progeny crop. Disease risk appears to be more related to the relative conduciveness of environmental conditions rather than inoculum level. Integration of control measures is likely to be the most effective way for growers to reduce the impact of the disease.
- Environmental conditions
- Seed inoculum