Potato Scab

by Kyle Scott, Agribusiness and Applied Economics major

There are many plant diseases that give us concern worldwide, but one in particular that may not be so scary now, could mutate to be a major problem. Potato scab is caused by a bacterial organism called Streptomyces scabies, that “overwinters in soil and fallen leaves.”

This disease occurs wherever potatoes are grown and you can diagnose it with symptoms that include dark brown patches that are raised and ‘warty.”  The organism can survive in alkaline soils but is rarely found in highly acidic soils. This is transmitted to plants through infected seed tubers both wind and water. Potato Scab can also spread through manure. Not only does this disease affect potatoes but also beets, radishes, turnips, carrots, rutabagas, and parsnips.

Really there are quite a few ways to treat and prevent the disease but as we all know, diseases can and will mutate so it can survive through different pesticides and treatments given. Back in the mid-1800s Ireland went through an absolutely devastating famine due to a potato blight ravaging the crops and caused mass starvation and disease. I’m worried to find out if something like this were to happen again but worldwide due to the fact that Potato Scab can grow anywhere. Although we are not reliant whatsoever on potatoes like almost half of Ireland once was, if a crop as popular as potatoes is infected worldwide it will cause major rippling effects on agriculture and panic would spread.

Now this is very unlikely due to the ease of control measures that can be taken to prevent Potato Scab. For example, decreasing the soil pH by adding elemental sulfur can suppress the ability for the disease to spread let alone even occur. Along with proper crop rotation and adequate irrigation, the combination of these methods should prevent Potato Scab. As for now our potatoes are safe and hopefully continue to flourish.

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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