9 Mar 2010

Disease impact on indigenous crops studied

3:10 pm on 9 March 2010

Research is underway at Massey University, looking at the impact of a devastating potato disease on indigenous crops.

It's estimated the tomato/potato psyllid, which spreads the bacterium liberibacter, has already caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to the commercial tomato, potato and capsicum industries.

Master of Science student Aleise Puketapu will be looking at ways of reducing its effect on taewa (Maori potato), kumara and poroporo, otherwise known as black nightshade.

She says the research will provide an insight into the relationship between the insect and the host plant, and what can be expected from the pest population as the growing season progresses.

Ms Puketapu says the impact of the disease was first noticed in 2008, when it started attacking the university's taewa crop.

"The aim of my research is to devise some management practices which will help growers," she says.

"We're going to look at the life cycle on each plant to see how fast or how slow it develops, how and when populations soar, and control before that."

A programme involving a number of research institutions all looking at how best to manage the psyllid is already underway, and Aleise Puketapu hopes her research will add to that.