Developing and disseminating potato virus management strategies for northeastern growers

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,984.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Stewart Gray
Cornell University
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Alison Power
Cornell University
Dr. Jennifer Thaler
Cornell University
Dr. David Voegtlin
University of Illinois

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: potatoes
  • Vegetables: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: extension, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, disease vectors, prevention
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Proposal abstract:

    There are both economic and environmental imperatives for the development of biological disease control strategies for Potato Virus Y (PVY). PVY is an economically important crop disease that reduces yield and, in the worst case, causes crop failure in many solanaceous crops, including potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. PVY presents a daunting management challenge, because it is transmitted rapidly by a vast array of aphid species and infected plants can be difficult to identify in the field. Current strategies, such as pesticide applications and removal of infected plants from the field, are not effective, needlessly increasing chemical inputs at both an economic and environmental cost. The goal of this project is to develop and disseminate a biological disease control strategy for potato growers that minimizes virus spread by enhancing naturally occurring aphid natural enemy populations. Twenty-one sites, including 20 farms will be surveyed for aphids, and aphid natural enemies, and PVY, affording insight into the extent of the problem and its main drivers. The effect of naturally occurring aphid natural enemy and aphid species on PVY prevalence and spread will be evaluated. The results of this work will be developed into management strategies for growers, which will be distributed widely through multiple media sources.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1) Survey the main aphid vector species, common natural enemies of aphids, and the distribution and spread of PVY on small farms across several counties in New York State: I will monitor the presence and spread of PVY by sampling plant tissue in potatoes and all other solanaceous crops grown on the target farms using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Potatoes grown from seed tubers saved from previous years will also be sampled. I will trap and survey aphid natural enemy and aphid populations in potato fields throughout the growing season. This intensive monitoring in conjunction with published data on aphid species transmission efficiencies, will allow me to determine the major vector species for PVY, as well as potential biological control agents.

    2) Evaluate the influence of landscape-level effects: Using GIS software, I will analyze the landscape composition of the area surrounding the potato fields at three scales: the field perimeter, within a 0.5km radius, and within a 5km radius (for preliminary analysis of percentage of agricultural land, see Figure 1,2, and 3). Land use will be quantified as %agricultrual, %forested, %developed, etc. I will test whether or not the complexity of the landscape surrounding the potato field affects aphid predator populations, aphid populations, or PVY prevalence and spread within potato fields and among other solanaceous crops.

    3) Evaluate the influence of aphid community composition on PVY prevalence and spread: In field experiments, I will examine the impact of aphid species diversity and evenness on PVY prevalence and spread, focusing on the major vector species found in the surveys.

    4) Evaluate the effect of natural enemy community composition on PVY prevalence and spread: In field experiments, I will test the effect of aphid natural enemy diversity and abundance on PVY prevalence and spread by introducing the most commonly found natural enemies to treatments developed in Objective 3. This work will allow me to determine the most effective naturally occurring biological control agents.

    5) Disseminating disease control management strategies: Analyzed cumulatively, the data from Objectives 1-4 will result in management recommendations for growers to maximize disease control on their farms through appropriate farm layout and potato growing practices. I will disseminate these recommendations as outlined in Section 5.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.