Bacteria could be putting sweet potato crop at risk - News & Features

7 April 2011
Bacteria could be putting sweet potato crop at risk

Almost the entire population of sweet potato whitefly, an aphid like creature which has caused devastation to sweet potato crops, have been infected with Rickettsia bellii in the past six years. The bacterium manipulates the female whitefly into laying greater quantities of eggs than non-infected whitefly females. The majority of the eggs are also infected with the bacterium as a result of transmission from mother to offspring. Researchers from the University of Arizona also found that these females gave birth to far more females than males further increasing the spread of the bacterium and the number of whitefly. Whilst so far their has not been an increase in whitefly infection in sweet potatoes the increase in their number could prove to be problematic in the future.

New Scientist