Nav: Home

Wheat virus crosses over, harms native grasses

January 17, 2017

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Once upon a time, it was thought that crop diseases affected only crops. New research shows, however, that a common wheat virus can spread and harm perennial native grasses.

In the current issue of the Journal of Ecology, researchers from Michigan State University, University of Kansas and University of Virginia show that farmers and scientists need to think about how best to protect native plants from diseases emanating from crops.

"Crop fields were once considered tiny islands in a sea of wild vegetation, so farmers and scientists focused on protecting crops from wild pathogens," said Carolyn Malmstrom, MSU plant biologist and co-lead author of the study. "Now, around the world, the situation has reversed, and diseases from agricultural fields affect not only crops, but also substantially harm native plants, such as switchgrass."

The findings were based on a multi-year field study in Kansas. There, like in much of the Midwest, plains of native grasses have been transformed to fields of wheat or other cereal crops. Now, it's the patches of grasses that are the islands in an ocean of crops.

A widespread wheat pathogen, barley yellow dwarf virus, can cross over and affect switchgrass, a prime candidate for biofuel research. The research team combined the field results with a statistical model and showed that the virus can reduce the vitality of switchgrass by 30 percent.

Interestingly, the infection can affect switchgrass' growth even though the native plant displays hardly any signs of sickness.

"Crops have been bred for yield, sometimes at the cost of plant defense. If they are susceptible, fast-growing crops can serve as highly competent hosts that amplify viruses within a region," Malmstrom said. "In these 'domesticated' landscapes, farmers, conservation biologists and epidemiologists need to be aware that diseases from crops can move into wild and native plants, which may need protection."

While the study focused on merely one virus, it shows that science needs to catch up in understanding how crops influence native plants and to build more knowledge of virus ecology in general.

"There are many mysteries surrounding how crop viruses affect natural ecosystems," Malmstrom said. "It's important that we build a base of research in this area. For example, if a novel virus emerges and threatens important species, we will need to draw on baseline information about virus ecology to address it; the big gaps in understanding need to be tackled."
-end-
The research team comprised Helen Alexander, KU, Emily Bruns, UVA, and Hayley Schebor, MSU.

Malmstrom's research is funded in part by MSU AgBioResearch and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Michigan State University

Related Virus Articles:

A new biosensor for the COVID-19 virus
A team of researchers from Empa, ETH Zurich and Zurich University Hospital has succeeded in developing a novel sensor for detecting the new coronavirus.
How at risk are you of getting a virus on an airplane?
New 'CALM' model on passenger movement developed using Frontera supercomputer.
Virus multiplication in 3D
Vaccinia viruses serve as a vaccine against human smallpox and as the basis of new cancer therapies.
How the Zika virus can spread
The spread of infectious diseases such as Zika depends on many different factors.
Fighting the herpes virus
New insights into preventing herpes infections have been published in Nature Communications.
Strategies of a honey bee virus
Heidelberg, 23 October 2019 - The Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus is a pathogen that affects honey bees and has been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder, a key factor in decimating the bee population.
Tracking the HI virus
A European research team led by Prof. Christian Eggeling from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT), and the University of Oxford has now succeeded in using high-resolution imaging to make visible to the millisecond how the HI virus spreads between living cells and which molecules it requires for this purpose.
Prior Zika virus or dengue virus infection does not affect secondary infections in monkeys
Previous infection with either Zika virus or dengue virus has no apparent effect on the clinical course of subsequent infection with the other virus, according to a study published August 1 in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens by David O'Connor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and colleagues.
Smartphone virus scanner is not what you think
The current leading method to assess the presence of viruses and other biological markers of disease is effective but large and expensive.
Early dengue virus infection could "defuse" zika virus
The Zika virus outbreak in Latin America has affected over 60 million people up to now.
More Virus News and Virus Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.