When subjected to high temperatures, such as during frying, the sugars in potatoes infected with the zebra chip bacterium caramelize and turn brown.
When subjected to high temperatures, such as during frying, the sugars in potatoes infected with the zebra chip bacterium caramelize and turn brown.

A multi-state research effort into zebra chip led by Texas A&M AgriLife Research was recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Oct. 23.

The group received the Partnership Award for Mission Integration of Research, Education and Extension at the Waterfront Centre, Washington, D.C.

The federal program involves 30 researchers representing seven universities and USDA's Agricultural Research Service from seven states, according to a news release.

Charlie Rush, a plant pathologist with AgriLife Research in Amarillo, Texas, leads the effort. Joining him are co-project leader Neil Gudmestad, a distinguished plant pathology professor at North Dakota State University; and John Trumble, a distinguished professor at the University of California, Riverside.

The group has conducted research into how to control the potato psyllid, a minute insect that can spread the zebra chip bacterium among potato fields.

Although harmless to humans, zebra chip affects the way potato tubers store and convert starches and sugars. When potatoes with zebra chip are subjected to high temperatures, such as during potato chip frying, the sugars caramelize, creating dark brown stripes.