Research Team Launches Virus Control Research

Published online: Sep 14, 2020 Articles
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Source: KIFI

A University of Idaho team will use a $5.8 million USDA grant to research a pair of viruses that cause major losses in the potato industry.

Two dozen scientists are focusing on potato virus Y (PVY) and potato mop top virus (PMTV) in seed potatoes and potatoes grown for market.

PVY damages plants and reduces yields and potato size, making the crop less valuable. A U of I study indicates PVY losses cost Idaho’s potato industry $34 million a year and reduced yields 10 to 50 percent. 

Six states have found PMTV in their seed potato crops. 

The project includes researchers in 10 potato-growing states.  U of I researchers in Idaho Falls, Kimberly, and Moscow will work on the project.

The four-year project will first focus on giving growers tools to control the viruses, then control pests that spread the virus, and, finally, identify genes that can provide natural resistance to them.

“Because of its position as the nation’s top potato-producing state, it is fitting that Idaho is leading the project,” says UI researcher and potato virus expert Alex Karasev

Researchers will study the economic impacts of the viruses and develop ways to communicate with and educate growers about the best strategies to reduce the viruses’ impacts.

Karasev won a mid-career award from UI in 2013 partly for his work on PVY, which became an issue for Idaho growers in the early 2000s. He recently turned his attention to PMTV as its threat to the potato industry increased.