Dickeya species: an emerging problem for potato production in Europe.
Dickeya species (formerly Erwinia chrysanthemi) cause diseases on numerous crop and ornamental plants world-wide. Dickeya spp. (probably D. dianthicola) were first reported on potato in the Netherlands in the 1970s and have since been detected in many other European countries. However, since 2004-5 a new pathogen, with the proposed name 'D. solani', has been spreading across Europe via trade in seed tubers and is causing increasing economic losses. Although disease symptoms are often indistinguishable from those of the more established blackleg pathogen Pectobacterium spp., Dickeya spp. can initiate disease from lower inoculum levels, have a greater ability to spread through the plant's vascular tissue, are considerably more aggressive, and have higher optimal temperatures for disease development (the latter potentially leading to increased disease problems as Europe's climate warms). However, they also appear to be less hardy than Pectobacterium spp. in soil and other environments outside the plant. Scotland is currently the only country in Europe to enforce zero tolerance for Dickeya spp. in its potato crop in an attempt to keep its seed tuber industry free from disease. However, there are a number of other ways to control the disease, including seed tuber certification, on-farm methods and the use of diagnostics. For diagnostics, new genomics-based approaches are now being employed to develop D. dianthicola- and 'D. solani'-specific PCR-based tests for rapid detection and identification. It is hoped that these diagnostics, together with other aspects of ongoing research, will provide invaluable tools and information for controlling this serious threat to potato production.