MEDIA ADVISORY: Zebra chip: Funny name, serious disease

Potato disease conference set for Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in San Antonio 

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-683-2736, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Charlie Rush, 806-354-5804, crush@ag.tamu.edu

SAN ANTONIO – As planting of the 2013 potato crop is about to get under way in the Rio Grande Valley, multi-state research and extension efforts involved in two major projects will be focused on aiding Texas potato growers and allied industries dealing with zebra chip of the zebra chip of the potato.

WHAT: More than 100 scientists, growers, industry representatives and others from throughout the U.S. and several other countries will attend the SCRI Zebra Chip Annual Reporting Session in San Antonio to share information and findings related to this disease threat.This is the annual meeting of a U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture-sponsored Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

WHEN: The best time for interviews with potato industry representatives, producers and research scientists will be Oct. 31 or Nov. 1, beginning about 8 a.m. The opening session from 8:15-10 a.m. will give the best live sound bites. Interviews can be arranged upon request.

WHERE: Crowne Plaza Hotel Riverwalk, 111 E. Pecan St., San Antonio.

WHY: Zebra chip disease is of local, state, national and international interest, said Dr. Charlie Rush, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in Amarillo and the Zebra Chip Specialty Crop Research Initiative national program leader. While not harmful to people, zebra chip affects the quality of potatoes and marketability because of dark stripes that appear when infected potatoes are fried to make chips and fries. The disease was found last year in the Pacific Northwest potato-growing regions where more than 50 percent of all U.S. potatoes are grown and has been a major problem for Texas since 2000.

WHO: While zebra chip moved into Texas in 2000, it wasn’t until 2007 that the Texas State Legislature provided funding through the Texas Department of Agriculture for research to be conducted by AgriLife Research to address this disease. That was the start of the state-funded Texas A&M AgriLife Research Zebra Chip Disease Management Program. Many of these researchers then became a part of the larger, federally funded Zebra Chip Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which is host for the reporting session.

For more information about the disease, go to http://zebrachipscri.tamu.edu/. To arrange interviews at the conference, contact Kay Ledbetter at skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu or 806-683-2736, or Paul Schattenberg at paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu or 210-859-5752.
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