Research Project

Establishment of a platform for rapid diagnosis of current and potential potato diseases in Alberta

Photo Supplied by RDAR Member: Alberta Potato Growers

Rapid detection and diagnosis of potato diseases is key to providing information on early management or
confirmation to customers that diseases are not present. The ability of the Alberta potato industry to effectively monitor and diagnose disease(s), in a timely manner, will limit potato market access and supply disruption .

How will this research impact Alberta’s agriculture industry?

Alberta ranks third in Canada for potato production and is the major seed potato producer and exporter in the country. Alberta’s potato industry consists of approximately 60,000 acres, with the majority of the crop grown for processing or seed. The industry as a whole contributes over $1 billion to the economy annually. Many diseases that may attack potato and seed potatoes are vulnerable than other crops to biotrophic pathogens such as viruses and parasitic bacteria.

The continued success of the industry depends on the production of high-quality disease-free potatoes. Early and rapid diagnosis is important for disease management and for consumer confirmation that the disease is not present.

Currently, for some important potato diseases, diagnostic methods are either unavailable, time-consuming, have low sensitivity, or come at a high cost. This project is working to develop a proactive protection plan which is an important strategy for potato disease management. Project researchers are working to ensure the industry is well prepared for diagnosis and management plans to mitigate disease, even if the disease is not yet present.

Why did RDAR invest in this research project?

This project will establish a system for early and rapid diagnosis of all potato diseases and provide Alberta potato growers a proactive surveillance platform, which is foundation of the proactive plant disease management. Outcomes from this project will benefit all Alberta’s potato producers and plant disease researchers. Upon completion of this project, the Alberta Plant Health Lab (APHL) will adopt the enhanced protocols. Additionally, all results of this study will be publicly available for adoption and utilization by other commercial and research labs in the Province.

There is no currently available system or database on standardized potato diagnostic protocols in Canada. Results from this project will generate intellectual property, in which all polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based protocols will be housed in a database. This will be a valuable resource for the potato industry and research on potato pathology and diagnostics. The protocols will also serve as standards and references when alternative protocols are being developed by other researchers.

How will research knowledge be transferred and shared with producers?

The results will be used to create a database hosting the optimized PCR-based diagnostic protocols for 67 potato pathogens; the database will be accessible to all diagnosis labs and research groups across the province.

Data from this research will be published in peer-reviewed journals, and will be presented in the form of oral and poster in different conferences and workshops, such as the Plant Pathology Society of Alberta and Canadian Plant Pathological Society annual meetings targeted to scientific audience for use of the knowledge by wider community for potato disease diagnosis. Furthermore, the results will also be presented at different events targeting potato growers, such as Farm Tech, Agronomy Update, and regional and municipal meetings.