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R290 Dickeya Populations in England & Wales

Publication Date: 
18 August 2011
Author/Contact :
John Elphinstone

Contractor :

Full Research Project Title: Investigation of Erwinia chrysanthemi (Dickeya dianthicola and other Dickeya spp.) able to infect potatoes
Duration: April 2007 - May 2008

Aim: To compare the different methods available for detection and quantification, to determine whether they are suitable for the detection of all Dickeya spp that can infect potato.

Industry Challenge

Erwinia chrysanthemi is a complex of different bacteria now reclassified as species of Dickeya. Dickeya dianthicola is known to have entered England and Wales on seed potatoes since 1990 and has caused sporadic losses under favourable environmental conditions since then. A new species, provisionally named as ‘Dickeya solani’, has emerged as a major threat to potato production in Europe and Israel. It was first isolated on potato in England and Wales in 2007.




This project, which was carried out by researchers at FERA (formerly CSL), has provided information on the frequency of occurrence and distribution of different Dickeya species, on seed potatoes. Samples collected from water courses were tested for the bacteria. The different methods available for detecting and quantifying the bacteria were compared to determine if they are all suitable for the detection of all Dickeya spp that can infect potato.

Key Findings

  • A collection of 219 Dickeya isolates were identified to species and their distribution was mapped by continent and by country in Europe.
  • All isolates of Dickeya found on potato entering, or grown in, England and Wales were identified as D. dianthicola. The frequency of occurrence on home-grown potatoes was found to be low (around 1%) in 2007. Permission was not obtained to test imported potatoes.
  • Dickeya spp. were detected sporadically in 35% of watercourses sampled in England and Wales in September 2007.
  • No evidence was found that Dickeya spp. had infected riparian weeds in the rivers in which it was detected. D. dianthicola was found to infect S. dulcamara under glasshouse conditions and has been found to infect under natural conditions in Sweden.
  • A modified selective medium (CVPM) allowed isolation of all Dickeya spp. A real time PCR assay allowed detection and identification of all Dickeya spp. but insufficient 16S rRNA and recA gene sequence variation was found for the development of specific assays for individual detection and identification of the different Dickeya spp. Therefore, further development will be required for species-specific PCR detection methods.

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