Detection and Distribution of Viruses Infecting Field-grown Sweetpotato in East Africa

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  • 1 1Louisiana State University, Dept. of Horticulture, Baton Rouge, LA, 70803
  • 2 2Louisiana State University, Dept. Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology, Baton Rouge, LA, 70803

Sweetpotato is an important staple food crop in Sub-Saharan Africa, with production being concentrated in East Africa, particularly around Lake Victoria. Productivity of the crop is greatly constrained by viral diseases. Four main viruses have consistently been detected from various surveys done in the region viz., sweetpotato feathery mottle virus (SPFMV), sweetpotato chlorotic stunt virus (SPCSV), sweetpotato mild mottle virus (Sp.m.MV), and sweetpotato chlorotic fleck virus (SPCFV). The most severe symptoms have been caused by co-infection with SPCSV and SPFMV, resulting in the synergistic sweetpotato virus disease (SPVD). Some local sweetpotato genotypes have been reported to recover from, or have localized distribution of SPVD, suggesting that the disease is not fully systemic. This has led to the suggestion that uninfected cuttings may be obtained from previously infected plants. Experiments were set to determine the possibility of obtaining cuttings long enough for propagation that are free from virus infection. This would form a basis for recommending to the local small-holder farmers of a way to reduce losses due to the disease. Field-grown sweetpotato vines were cut into three pieces (15, 15–30, and >30 cm from the apex) and tested for SPCSV and SPFMV. Nine genotypes were selected from a group of 21 local clones and used for this study. The two viruses were equally present in all the three sections of infected vines, indicating that it is not easy to obtain a virus-free cutting for field propagation from an infected vine. Virus assays in the past has mainly been limited to the use of serological methods. Use of PCR resulted in detection of begomoviruses infecting sweetpotatoes for the first time in the region.

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