Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tracking a crop disease could save millions of lives

20.08.2008
Scientists have discovered why one of the world's most important agricultural diseases emerged, according to research published in the September issue of the Journal of General Virology.

Maize streak virus (MSV) causes the main virus disease of Africa's most important food crop. By comparing the genome of the virus to those of its less harmful relatives, scientists have discovered how and why MSV became a serious pest and spread so rapidly across Africa.

"Given the fragility of African agriculture and perpetual famine risks with millions of lives at stake, MSV is actually one of the most important plant pathogens worldwide," said Dr Darren Martin from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. "We wanted to learn more about how the virus emerged and spread so we can develop new ways to fight the diseases it causes."

There are many different strains of MSV but only one of these causes a severe disease in maize. The others cause relatively mild infections in other grassy food crops such as wheat, oats and sugarcane. Scientists have known for some time now that the "maize adapted" MSV strain is peculiar; all versions of the virus that have been sampled throughout the entire African continent are genetically almost identical. The researchers looked at strains of the virus that infect natural grasses and compared these to the maize adapted strain. The results show that the maize adapted strain is even more unique than was previously thought.

"We found that the maize adapted virus infects a greater variety of grasses than any of the other MSV strains," said Dr Martin. "The virus appears to be spreading around Africa faster than the other strains too. When we compared the genomes of 11 different strains of MSV, we discovered that lots of genes had been exchanged between the strains in a process called recombination. We also found that every MSV that causes severe disease in maize has descended from an ancestral virus that was the recombinant offspring of two relatively harmless wild grass infecting viruses. This chance recombination event could be the reason MSV has become such a serious problem."

All available information suggests that over 100 years ago, two grass adapted MSVs recombined to produce a new "wide-host range" strain that could infect a greater variety of other plants than its parents. This meant the virus could survive the winters in wild grasses more effectively than its relatives - something that potentially increased the speed at which it spread across Africa. The ability of this recombinant strain to infect many different host species may have also enabled it to rapidly adapt to maize - a process that today has led to its emergence as an economically important crop disease.

"Understanding the chain of events that trigger the emergence of novel pathogens is a major goal of epidemiologists worldwide," said Dr Martin. "There is a lot of circumstantial evidence suggesting how evolutionary processes like recombination might trigger the emergence of a pathogen but there are actually very few well documented examples of this having occurred."

The next step is to carry out rigorous tests to provide more evidence for the specific biological causes of the emergence of MSV. The researchers also hope to develop different genetic strategies to help the crops resist disease. "Comparing important pathogens with their "agriculturally irrelevant" relatives can tell us useful stuff about the pathogens," said Dr Martin. "Knowing that maize adapted MSVs are unusually mobile I hope will prompt scientists to test MSV resistance genes against the large bank of virus strains that we have catalogued from across Africa."

"We are currently testing various resistance strategies, some in an advanced stage of development, using many of the viruses we've sampled. Complex genetic strategies like stacking resistance genes and targeting different virus components that cannot be simultaneously exchanged by recombination might ultimately be the only way to control the disease."

Lucy Goodchild | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sgm.ac.uk

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University

nachricht New findings about the deformed wing virus, a major factor in honey bee colony mortality
11.11.2016 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>