In early 2000, a new disease affecting potatoes was discovered in the lower Rio Grande valley areas of Texas. By 2004-2005 the disease spread to other states in the U.S. and was causing significant economic damage in these areas.
The disease is characterized by yellowing of leaves, aerial tubers, shortened and thickened internodes, stunted plant growth and reduced fruit and tuber size. Furthermore, fresh tubers showed brown discoloration when cut and when fried for potato chips they displayed very dark stripes. Hence, the disease was called “zebra chips,” for the characteristic brown stripes. In 2008, an insect, potato/tomato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli was found to transmit the bacterial pathogen, “Candidatus (Ca.) Liberibacter solanacearum” the casual agent of zebra chip disease in the potato.
Dr. Punya Nachappa is a post-doctoral research associate in Dr. Cecilia Tamborindeguy’s laboratory in the Department of Entomology at Texas A & M University. One of her research projects involves investigating the effects of the bacteria on the insect vector, potato psyllid. Her research shows that the bacteria reduce the reproduction or population of the insects. By using the Bioline SensiFAST SYBR Hi-ROX kit she is able to determine the amount of bacteria in each psyllid and was then able to correlate the amount of bacteria with degree of reproductive loss in the insects. SensiFAST proved to be a reliable product for use in this study.