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Keywords:

  • cultivar mixture;
  • diversification strategy;
  • Morisita's index;
  • Phytophthora infestans;
  • potato late blight;
  • resistance gene management

Late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans, is the most severe disease of potato worldwide. Controlling late blight epidemics is difficult, and resistance of host cultivars is either not effective enough, or too easily overcome by the pathogen to be used alone. In field trials conducted for 3 years under natural epidemics, late blight severity was significantly lower in a susceptible cultivar growing in rows alternating with partially resistant cultivars (mixtures) than in unmixed plots of the susceptible cultivar alone. Partially resistant cultivars behaved similarly in unmixed and mixed plots. Mixtures of cultivars reduced disease progress rates and sometimes delayed disease onset over unmixed plots, but did so significantly only for the slowest epidemic. This suggests that reduction of area under the disease progress curve (AUDPC) in mixtures resulted from the cumulative action of minor effects. Disease distribution was focal in all plots at all dates, as shown by Morisita's index values significantly exceeding 1. Significant yield increases for the susceptible cultivar, and occasionally for the partially resistant ones, were observed in mixed-cultivar plots compared with single-cultivar plots. These results show that cultivar mixtures can significantly reduce natural, polycyclic epidemics in broadleaved plants attacked by pathogens causing rapidly expanding lesions.