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USDA SCRI funds new research: potatoes and pests – actionable science against nematodes

USDA SCRI funds new research: potatoes and pests – actionable science against nematodes

February 01, 2023
USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) recently announced funding (USD 6.8M) for Potatoes and Pests – Actionable Science Against Nematodes (nicknamed PAPAS).

The PAPAS team will engage in a four-year research project to provide growers with the best management practices for controlling infestations of both root knot and potato cyst nematodes in potato fields. Successful completion will result in several tools for growers:
  • Molecular diagnostics, thresholds, and decision support systems
  • Plant defenses and the development of resistant varieties
  • Novel nematicidal chemistries
  • Passing it along, engaging stakeholders

The group aims to increase awareness about nematode damage thresholds, nematicides and fumigants, deployment of resistance strategies, and improved nematode diagnostic methods.

Additional activities will include training growers and future professionals (e.g., nematologists, plant scientists, and economists) on nematode best practices. Growers will benefit from this project by applying information from the PAPAS team to improve nematode management practices, increasing yields and profit.

The four objectives of PAPAS The project encompasses four main objectives, and each year has a focus area, including thresholds for detection, damage, and economic harm; deployment of resistance and plant defenses; developments of novel nematicidal chemistries and action plans for their use; and providing decision support models to engage the industry in the best management practices.
  • Objective 1: Improving Diagnostics and Implementing Predictive Modes for Decision Support – Decision support tools for growers and other industry members affected by nematode infestations will be developed by deploying improved diagnostics and predictive models.
  • Objective 2: Mining Plant Defenses and Deployment of Novel Resistance – The development of potato varieties with nematode resistance will be accelerated by increasing the understanding of plant defense genes and using marker-assisted breeding to develop resistant varieties.
  • Objective 3: Planning for the Future Through Smart Nematicide Chemistries – The team has identified a plant species, Solanum sisymbriifolium, that is toxic to many nematodes. These will become purified for novel nematicide production.
  • Objective 4: Passing It Along – Engaging Our Stakeholders – Information gained from this project will be shared with the industry, so they can adopt an integrated systems approach for effective nematode management.

Potato Research Advisory Committee & its support for PAPAS

Each year, the Potato Research Advisory Committee (PRAC) meets to discuss research proposals submitted to various funding sources. One of the most popular submission sources includes SCRI. PRAC selects projects that merit support and solicits letters of support from industry members who express a desire for submissions to be accepted.

Since 2016, PRAC’s efforts have helped six projects led by potato scientists win USD 30.7M in funding for the industry. PRAC supported the PAPAS submission with 70 letters of support from national organizations, regional and state organizations, processors, regulators, research entities, and growers in 12 states.