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Effects of Nitrogen Fertilization on the Leaf Chemical Composition of Two Potato Cultivars under Controlled Conditions

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Colorado potato beetle (CPB), Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say), is the most destructive pest of potato crops and the chemical composition of potato leaves plays an important role in CPB growth and development. Sugars and amino acids can promote CPB development by increasing feeding and flight behaviors, whereas glycoalkaloids are considered as plant defensive compounds to suppress CPB populations. In this study, the effects of nitrogen (N) fertilization on foliar sugar, amino acid, and glycoalkaloid concentrations of two potato cultivars (Russet Burbank and Goldrush) were investigated under controlled conditions. A pot experiment was carried out with five N rates (0, 60, 120, 180, and 240 kg N ha−1) in a randomized complete block design. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th leaves from the top of three randomly selected plants from a plot were collected at 61, 75, 89, and 103 days after planting for the analysis of sugars, glycoalkaloids, and amino acids. Nitrogen fertilization had no significant effect on glycoalkaloid concentrations, however, it quadratically increased foliar sugar and amino acid concentrations. Relatively low sugar and amino acid concentrations were observed at 180 kg N ha−1, suggesting that this N rate may be effective for CPB management. Significant differences in most of the foliar chemicals were observed between two cultivars, warranting further studies to investigate the leaf composition of different potato cultivars under field conditions and their effects on CPB behaviors.


El escarabajo de la papa de Colorado (CPB), Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say), es la plaga mas destructiva de los cultivos de papa, y la composición química de las hojas de la papa juega un papel importante en el crecimiento y desarrollo del CPB. Azucares y aminoácidos pueden promover el desarrollo del CPB mediante el incremento de comportamientos de alimentación y vuelo, mientras que los glicoalcaloides se consideran como compuestos de defensa de la planta para suprimir las poblaciones de CPB. En este estudio, se investigaron, bajo condiciones controladas, los efectos de la fertilización nitrogenada sobre las concentraciones del azúcar foliar, aminoácidos y glicoalcaloides, de dos variedades de papa (Russet Burbank y Goldrush). Un exprimento en macetas se llevó a cabo con cinco niveles de N (0, 60, 120, 180, y 240 kg N ha−1) en un diseño de bloques completamente al azar. Se colectaron la 3ª, 4ª, y 5ª hoja desde el ápice de tres plantas seleccionadas al azar de un lote a los 61, 75, 89, y 103 días después de la siembra para el análisis de azucares, glicoalcaloides y aminoácidos. La fertilización de nitrógeno no tuvo efecto significativo en las concentraciones de los glicoalcaloides, no obstante, incrementó cuadráticamente las concentraciones del azúcar foliar y de aminoácidos. Se observaron relativamente bajas concentraciones de azúcar y aminoácidos a 180 kg N ha−1 lo cual sugiere que este nivel de N pudiera ser efectivo para el manejo del CPB. Se observaron diferencias significativas en la mayoría de los compuestos químicos entre las dos variedades, lo que garantiza estudios posteriores para investigar la composición de la hoja de las diferentes variedades de papa bajo condiciones de campo y sus efectos en los comportamientos del CPB.

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This study was financially supported by the Growing Forward Program of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). The authors would like to thank Haixiao Li from Nankai University and Sandra Delaney from AAFC’s Quebec Research and Development Centre for their assistance with sample collection and laboratory analysis. The first author acknowledges the assistance received from “Le Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT)” in the form of a Ph.D. scholarship during his studies at Université Laval.

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Correspondence to Athyna N. Cambouris.

Additional information

Core ideas:

Nitrogen fertilization significantly increased foliar sugar and amino acid concentrations, but not glycoalkaloid concentrations.

Significant differences in the concentrations of most foliar chemicals were observed between potato cv. Goldrush and Russet Burbank.

Leaf sugar and glycoalkaloid concentrations increased, while amino acid concentrations significantly decreased with increasing sampling dates.

Under a rate of 180 kg N ha-1, lower concentrations of total sugar and amino acid were observed compared with those at other N rates, suggesting that this N rate could be selected for Colorado potato beetle control.

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Wen, G., Cambouris, A.N., Ziadi, N. et al. Effects of Nitrogen Fertilization on the Leaf Chemical Composition of Two Potato Cultivars under Controlled Conditions. Am. J. Potato Res. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12230-020-09765-5

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  • Solanum tuberosum L.
  • Herbivorous pest
  • Glycoalkaloid
  • Sugar
  • Amino acid