Potato psyllids are thought to migrate from one location to the next, starting the season in northern Mexico and moving northward into the United States as potato planting progresses.
By determining whether the insects, which carry the zebra chip bacteria, are migratory or native populations could help growers better manage them, according to a news release.
As part of the Zebra Chip Specialty Crop Research Initiative, Texas AgriLife researchers Arash Rashed and Charlie Rush are studying pathogen-plant-vector interactions.
One study involves a network of traps in south-central Texas around Pearsall and another network in the Texas Panhandle near Dalhart and Bushland.
The researchers monitor changes in psyllid numbers in natural vegetation around potato fields.
In addition, they test the psyllids for Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, the organism responsible for zebra chip.
The researchers want to determine the role native vegetable plays in insect migration as well as disease transmission.
Although it's too early to draw conclusions, Rashed said he believes early spraying of fields and potato seed treatments appear to lower the disease incidence.
Eliminating volunteer potatoes, which can act as psyllid hosts before crop emergence, also helps manage pest populations.