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'Zebra Chip' Disease Concerns Northwest Potato Growers

RICHLAND, Wash. – Northwest agriculture researchers say they are finding more cases of a zebra chip disease in the region’s potatoes. The malady mars spuds with dark streaks, making them unsuitable for sale. The latest case cropped up near Hermiston, Oregon.

First discovered in the Northwest last year, zebra chip is a grower’s worst nightmare. Silvia Rondon with Oregon State University say the insects that carry the disease are the size of aphids. She says they multiply more in the summer.

“The warmer it gets, the shorter the life cycle -– meaning going from adult, egg, nymph and adults again," Rondon says.

"The perfect temperature for these guys is upper 80s.”

Zebra chip disease has already damaged Texas’s potato industry. In the Northwest, the potato industry is worth billions of dollars.

On the Web:

USDA - Fight Against Zebra Chip Disease:

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/feb12/potatoes0212.htm

Biology and Management of Potato Psyllid in the Northwest:

http://www.oregonspuds.com/publications/PotatoPsyllid.pdf

Tubers infected with zebra chip disease show dark, stripelike symptoms in the tissue. Photo courtesy of USDA
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Tubers infected with zebra chip disease show dark, stripelike symptoms in the tissue. Photo courtesy of USDA

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.