Pest management science

The effect of foliar application of phosphonate formulations on the susceptibility of potato tubers to late blight.

PMID 11838279


Foliar sprays of potato plants with phosphonic acid (partially neutralised with potassium hydroxide to pH 6.4) substantially reduced infection of the tubers by Phytophthora infestans, the cause of late blight, in glasshouse and field experiments over a 4-year period. Healthy tubers of blight-susceptible cultivars removed from treated plants and artificially inoculated by spraying with sporangial/zoospore suspensions of P infestans did not develop disease symptoms, demonstrating that the phosphonate applications had directly reduced the susceptibility of tubers to infection, probably as a result of translocation into tuber tissue. In contrast, foliar application of fosetyl-aluminium did not significantly reduce tuber blight development following inoculation. Five to six sprays of partially neutralised phosphonic acid (2 kg ha-1) applied at 10-14 day intervals resulted in the least tuber infection, but such a treatment regime may not be economic. In trials where the effect of timing and rate of application of 2-4 kg phosphonic acid ha-1 was examined, a single treatment of 4 kg ha-1 applied mid- or late-season proved the most effective. A spray programme in which one or two applications of phosphonic acid are combined with use of a non-systemic or systemic fungicide to enhance foliar protection offers the possibility of controlling both foliage and tuber blight and could have a major impact in reducing overwinter survival of P infestans in tubers.