The mechanisms of control of potato common scab (Streptomyces scabies) by irrigation were investigated in 5 years by studying the growth and surface microflora of young potato tubers developing in wet or dry soils. Direct examination of the tuber surface by light or scanning electron microscopy showed that the newly formed internodes near the apex, which carry stomata, had a very sparse microflora. In dry soil the older internodes, which carry lenticels at a susceptible stage, were increasingly colonised by actinomycete hyphae and discrete, although sometimes large, bacterial colonies. In wet soil, actinomycetes were rarely seen on tuber surfaces but bacteria were generally scattered over them, differences not always shown by isolation from periderm pieces onto water agar.
When dry scab-infested soil was wetted, scabs did not subsequently develop on the two youngest tuber internodes (A-1, A-2), which may be an example of disease escape rather than inherent resistance of the stomata. The scab control achieved in wet soil was probably caused by some form of microbial antagonism, but whether through competition or antibiosis was not established.