African Crop Science Journal

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Epidemiology and population dynamics of Phytophthora infestans in Sub-Saharan Africa: Progress and constraints

O. M. Olanya, E. Adipala, J. J. Hakiza, J. C. Kedera, P. Ojiambo, J. M. Mukalazi, G. Forbes, R. Nelson


Global estimates of losses attributed to plant diseases are approximated at 24.8 million dollars, of this amount 3.4 million dollars has been recorded for potato. Of the potato diseases, late blight (Phytophthora infestans) is the most significant constraint in tropical Africa. Variation in losses of potato caused by late blight have been documented in several countries, and has shown that yield losses can range from 30 to 75% on susceptible varieties. In terms of disease cycle, the sources of primary inoculum have not been adequately investigated, however, the continuos cropping of potato and tomato ensures inoculum presence year-around in tropical Africa. Data on the low incidence of tuber blight and the lack of evidence for potato seed-borne infection suggests that tuber blight is not a significant source of primary inoculum in the tropics. Population studies of P. infestans in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have been conducted primarily on isolates from Uganda, Kenya and S. Africa. Mating type tests with A1 tester isolates coupled with DNA analysis revealed that the fungal isolates from Uganda, Kenya and S. Afirca are of A1 mating type (US 1 clonal lineage). Variation and lack of consistency in oospore production (10 % selfing, 24 % mating, & 15 % non-oospore producers) have been detected among the isolates from Uganda and Kenya. Similarly, variability in metalaxyl sensitivity, has been detected among these isolates. Fungicide and variety reaction studies conducted in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia suggests that significant late blight control can be achieved when the protectant fungicide, Dithane (a.i mancozeb) is applied on a scheduled basis. On-farm research also indicates that three timely applications of a protectant or a protectant fungicide alternated with systemic fungicide can be effective for late blight management. Results of in-vitro tuber blight development and host-specificity studies imply that isolates from potato are more virulent than isolates from tomato. Studies are underway to quantify general resistance of potato varieties as well as to monitor the significance of fungal population deviations in the region. Decision support systems are in the process of being developed to optimize fungicide application and variety resistance for late blight management.

Key Words: Phytophthora infestans, fungal population, fungicide sensitivity, epidemiology, yield loss, tropical Africa

(African Crop Science Journal 2001 9(1): 185-194)

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African Crop Science Journal. ISSN: 1021-9730
AJOL African Journals Online