CSU to study the spread of pathogens in U.S. potato crops

Potato study field photo
Amy Charkowski, head of CSU’s Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner this week announced that Colorado State University will receive $264,600 in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study the spread of pathogens in U.S potato crops. This grant is part of a $4.8 million investment from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to study important challenges in U.S agriculture.

“Congratulations to Colorado State on receiving this grant, which will help detect and manage potato pathogens,” Bennet said. “Potato growers play a critical role in our farm economy, and this research will help support them over the long-term in Colorado and across the country.”

“This grant funding is important for Colorado’s agriculture community,” Gardner said. “I am glad that Colorado State will have the opportunity to help our farmers find new detection methods for food safety and production.”

Protecting potato production

 “We are tremendously grateful to Senators Bennet and Gardner for their leadership in support of Colorado agriculture and agricultural research. Plant diseases like this one can spread quickly across the country, and they reduce the sustainability of food production,” CSU President Tony Frank said. “This research will help farmers protect potato production in Colorado and in many other states.”

Amy Charkowski, head of CSU’s Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, will lead the project. Charkowski’s research has provided significant insights into enhancing disease resistance in potato breeding.

“The bacterial pathogen Dickeya dianthicola causes a disease called blackleg where potato stems decay,” said Charkowski. “This disease can kill growing plants within a few days.”

“America’s agricultural systems are constantly exposed to biological and environmental threats,” NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy said. “These NIFA investments in user-inspired projects bring together researchers, extension experts, and practitioners to find solutions that can be rapidly adopted by the agricultural community.”

Critical need for research

In 2015 and 2016, a new bacteria in U.S. potatoes caused significant losses on farms throughout the country. Some farms experienced a total crop loss, reaffirming the critical need for additional research and engagement with affected stakeholders. With this funding, CSU researchers will develop tools to detect these pathogens and advance management techniques to reduce its spread. They also will provide information to the potato industry to prevent future outbreaks.

The funding for this grant is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.