Archive for the ‘Viruses’ Category

First Report of Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus on Tomato in Syria

  • APS

Ziad M Hasan, Nidà Mohammed Salem, Imad D. Ismail, Insaf Akel, and Ahmad Y AhmadPublished Online:2 Sep 2021https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-07-21-1356-PDN


Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) is an important vegetable crop worldwide. In spring and autumn 2017, virus-like symptoms were observed on greenhouse grown tomato plants in the east of Akkar plain (south of coastal region, Tartous governorate, Syria). These symptoms were: mild to severe mosaic on the apical leaves, brown necrosis on sepals, receptacle and flower’s cluster carrier, and severe symptoms of brown rugose and discoloration on fruit. During next growing seasons, disease spread was observed in most of Syrian coastal region with disease incidence ranged from 40% to 70% by 2020. Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) was suspected as a main causal agent of the disease, especially since its first report in Jordan, a neighboring country (Salem et al. 2016), Palestine (Alkowni et al. 2019), Turkey (Fidan et al. 2019), Germany (Menzel et al. 2019), Italy (Panno et al. 2019), America (Camacho-Beltrán et al. 2019), Egypt (Amer and Mahmoud, 2020), and recently in Spain (Alfaro-Fernandez et al. 2021). In November and December 2020, seventy-one leaf samples from symptomatic plants (59 from Tartous and 12 from Lattakia governorates) and seven from asymptomatic ones (5 from Tartous and 2 from Lattakia) were collected and tested for the presence of ToBRFV by double-antibody sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (DAS-ELISA), using ToBRFV-commercial kit (LOEWE® Biochemia, Germany) following the manufacturer’s instructions. Results showed, forty-three of symptomatic samples reacted positively (38 in Tartous and 5 in Lattakia) and none of asymptomatic ones. On the other hand, sap mechanical inoculation of 10 tomato cv. Mandaloun F1 (Enza Zaden, the Netherlands) plants using a positive tomato isolate gave systemic mosaic symptoms in all plants identical to those observed in the original plants in the field, after 13 days of inoculation, and necrotic local lesions on 10 plants of Nicotiana tabacum after 5 days, indicating the presence of a tobamovirus in general. ToBRFV infection was confirmed in all mechanically-inoculated plants by DAS-ELISA. Further tests were necessary to investigate ToBRFV presence, because of its serological relationships with another tobamoviruses. Six representative symptomatic samples (ELISA-positive) and two asymptomatic (ELISA-negative) samples were subjected to total RNA extraction using the SV-Total RNA Extraction kit (Promega, U.S.A.) following the manufacturer’s instructions. The samples were tested by two-step reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) using species-specific primers and protocols for most common tomato-infecting viruses, including: tomato chlorosis virus and tomato infectious chlorosis virus (Dovas et al. 2002), pepino mosaic virus (PepMV) and tomato torrado virus (Wieczorek et al. 2013), alfalfa mosaic virus (Parrella et al. 2000), tomato spotted wilt virus (Salem et al. 2012) and a pair of primers: ToBRFV-F2 (5’-CATATCTCTCGACACCAGTAAAAGGACCCG-3’) and ToBRFV-R2 (5’-TCCGAGTATAGGAAGACTCTGGTTGGTC-3’) targeting a region of the RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), of the ToBRFV genome (KT383474; Salem et al. 2016). First-strand cDNA synthesis was carried out using Moloney murine leukemia virus reverse transcriptase (M-MLV RT; Promega) and random primer according to the manufacturer’s protocol, then followed by PCR with the seven species-specific primers. Only ToBRFV was detected among all tested viruses in symptomatic samples (ELISA-positive), and none of the tested viruses was detected in the asymptomatic plants. To confirm the presence of ToBRFV, two selected RdRp-specific PCR amplicons (872 bp) were purified and ligated into pGEM T-Easy Vector (Promega), and three clones were sequenced (GenBank accession nos. MZ447794 to 96). BLASTn analysis showed that the nucleotide sequences are 99.77-100% identical and shared around 99% identity to RdRp of ToBRFV isolate (MT118666) from Turkey available in the GenBank. Accordingly, the presence of ToBRFV was confirmed by bioassays on indicator plants, DAS-ELISA, RT-PCR, and further sequencing. To our knowledge, this is the first report of ToBRFV infecting tomato in Syria, and this requires special emphasis for further investigations because of the virus severity, easy transmission ability and absent of commercial resistance varieties till now.

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Beijing Yanqing Potatoes: growing virus-free potatoes in a greenhouse

“How many seed potatoes would you like to purchase? Okay, I will mark it out for you.” Still a month to go before the large-scale potato planting in the northern region. Mr. Li Yanming, general manager of Beijing Xisen Sanhe Potato, is called every day many times to help buyers to place the orders as growers in many provinces and cities have already started pre-ordering seed potatoes to prepare for the upcoming growing season.

Since the 2015 World Potato Conference, the potato seed industry in Yanqing, Northeast China has continued to develop further. These small potatoes are increasingly becoming a major agricultural industry in Yanqing District, Beijing. Nowadays, the seed potatoes developed and produced from Beijing Xisen Sanhe Potato are sold all over the country and even exported to foreign countries.

Virus free breeding 
Virus-free varieties are very important in seed potato cultivation. In the seedling production workshop of Xisen, technicians in white overalls are busy in front of a bunch of professional laboratory equipment with bottles. “Just like peeling the leaves of cabbage, choose a good variety to take its bud tip, and peel it to the smallest and brightest core left at the end, which is the leaf primordium we want.” According to the staff, these leaf primordia are cultivated in a flame-sterilized medium to grow a piece of leaf, and then each leaf is cut into a section to grow into a seedling, and finally planted in a greenhouse.

Compared with conventionally bred seed potatoes, the seed potatoes produced by the seedlings that have undergone detoxification procedures are healthier and have the characteristics of early maturity, high yield, and superior quality. The yield can generally increase by three times compared with conventionally bred seed potatoes, which can greatly increase the income of growers.

Compared with the technological atmosphere of the seedling production workshop, the greenhouse is full of vitality, and the dark green potato seedlings are growing. The original potato seeds grown in these greenhouses are about the same size as quail eggs. After these original seeds mature, they will be grown in the field to grow a little bigger. When these bigger ones are planted again, the seed potatoes that grow out are sold to farmers. This “three-level breeding” system ensures the best quality of seed potatoes grown.

Xisen has built more than 10 hectares of greenhouses, had already cultivated more than ten new potato varieties, and has two national patent technologies. At the same time, it has large-scale breeding of virus-free sweet potato seedlings, with an annual output of about 20 million seedlings and more than 100,000 tons of seed potatoes.

“Our seed potatoes are now sold to more than ten provinces, cities, and regions across the country, including Shandong, Gansu, Yunnan, and Guangdong. They are also sold to foreign regions such as Kazakhstan and South Korea. Especially in Kazakhstan, they perform better than local varieties with more than 50% higher production.”Mr. Li Yanming said proudly.

Not only that, since last year, Xisen has started to expand the new model of cooperation between farmers in seed potato and seedling production. At present, the company has established cooperation with agricultural cooperatives in other towns in Yanqing District. The Xisen Company trains farmers in technology, provides seedlings and recycles products. These cooperatives are responsible for the daily organization and management of farmers, further expand the scale of seed potato production, expand the base of seed sources, and at the same time drives farmers to increase their income.

Seeds are the foundation for modern agriculture. As a large agricultural production area in Beijing, Yanqing District vigorously promotes seed research and development and seedling cultivation, cultivates influential modern seed industry enterprises to grow and develop, drives farmers to increase their incomes, and promotes high-quality agricultural development. The “little potatoes” from Yanqing are taking root in more and more places at home and abroad, planting flowers of hope and bearing fruits of prosperity.

Source: www.takungpao.com

Publication date: Wed 29 Sep 2021

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The Chilean cherry sector is worried about the necrotic spot virus

The Federation of Fruit Producers expressed its concern about the threat that the Prunus necrotic spot virus poses for the Chilean cherry industry, as it could cause them to lose plantations and part of the international market that buys this product.

In an interview with the newspaper La Tribuna, the president of Fedefruta, Jorge Valenzuela, said that, even though the virus’ incidence in the country is still being studied, they were already studying the cherries that have the virus to contain and control it. “This virus is constantly found in fruits, but it doesn’t always present symptoms,” Valenzuela stated.

“Fedefruta is working with the association of exporters and the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) to teach producers what the symptoms of this virus are so they can identify it and know how to treat it,” he stressed. This will allow producers to carry out tests to detect the virus in time and stop its spread in the different agricultural properties that could face this problem.

However, one of the great difficulties that Fedefruta faces is that there still is no method to treat the virus. Thus, producers should remove the trees that show any symptoms from the orchards.

The Federation has proposed certain guidelines to face this agricultural disease in crops: “Healthy trees can defend themselves better against the virus if they have good agronomic management.” Thus, they recommend keeping the orchards in good sanitary conditions, as the first measure to combat the virus.

The union leader also asked agricultural producers not to panic: “We have restrictions in China, but we must make good selections so that there are no problems with the country later on.”

Valenzuela highlighted the joint work being developed between the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association AG (Asoex), Fedefruta (National Trade Union Federation of Fruit Producers), and the Chinese Government to eradicate the disease as soon as possible.

Source: latribuna.cl 

Publication date: Mon 13 Sep 2021

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Science News

Viruses can kill wasp larvae that grow inside infected caterpillars

A new study is a take on the adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

picture of a green caterpillar-like creature walking across a leaf
A group of proteins found in some insect viruses as well as some insects (such as this beet armyworm) can kill the larvae of parasitic wasps, protecting the caterpillars that those wasps exploit to lay eggs.JOHN CAPINERA, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA/BUGWOOD.ORG (CC BY-NC 3.0 US)

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By Erin Garcia de Jesús

JULY 29, 2021 AT 2:00 PM

When parasitic wasps come calling, some caterpillars have a surprising ally: a viral infection. 

Insects called parasitoid wasps lay their eggs inside young moth larvae, turning the caterpillars into unwitting, destined-to-die incubators for possibly hundreds of wasp offspring. That’s bad news for viruses trying to use the caterpillars as replication factories. For the caterpillars, viral infections can be lethal, but their chances of survival are probably higher than if wasps choose them as a living nursery.

Now, a study shows how certain viruses can help caterpillars stymie parasitoid wasps. A group of proteins dubbed parasitoid killing factor, or PKF, that are found in some insect viruses are incredibly toxic to young parasitoid wasps, researchers report in the July 30 Science.

The new finding shows that viruses and caterpillars can come together to fight off a common wasp enemy, says study coauthor Madoka Nakai, an insect virologist at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. A parasitoid wasp would kill a host that the virus needs to survive, so the virus fights for its home. “It’s very clever,” Nakai says.

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What’s more, some moth caterpillars make the wasp-killing proteins themselves, the team found. It’s possible that in the distant past, a few moths survived a viral infection and “got some presents” in the form of genetic instructions for how to make the proteins, says study coauthor Salvador Herrero, an insect pathologist and geneticist at the University of Valencia in Spain. Those insects could have then passed the ability down to offspring. In this case, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Herrero says.

Previous studies had shown that viruses and insects, including moths, can swap genes with each other. The new finding is one of the latest examples of this activity, says Michael Strand, an entomologist at the University of Georgia in Athens who was not involved in the work.

“Parasite-host relationships are very specialized,” he says. “Factors like [PKF] are probably important in defining which hosts can be used by which parasites.” But whether caterpillars stole the genetic instructions for the proteins from viruses or if viruses originally stole the instructions from another host remains unclear, Strand says.  

Researchers discovered in the 1970s that virus-infected caterpillars could kill parasitoid wasp larvae using an unknown viral protein. In the new study, Herrero and colleagues identified PKF as wasp-killing proteins. The team infected moth caterpillars with one of three insect viruses that carry the genetic blueprints to make the proteins. Then the researchers either allowed wasps to lay their eggs in the caterpillars or exposed wasp larvae to hemolymph — the insect equivalent of blood — from infected caterpillars.  

Virus-infected caterpillars were poor hosts of the parasitoid wasp Cotesia kariyai; most young wasps died before they had the chance to emerge from the caterpillars into the world. Hemolymph from infected caterpillars was also an efficient killer of wasp larvae, typically destroying more than 90 percent of offspring.

C. kariyai wasp larvae also didn’t survive in caterpillars, including the beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua), that make their own PKF. When the researchers blocked the genes for the proteins in these caterpillars, the wasps lived, a sign that the proteins are key for the caterpillars’ defenses.

Some parasitoid wasps, including Meteorus pulchricornis, weren’t affected by PKF from the viruses and also beet armyworms, allowing the wasp offspring to thrive inside caterpillars. That finding suggests that the wasp-fighting ability is species-specific, says Elisabeth Herniou, an insect virologist at CNRS and the University of Tours in France who was not involved in the work. Pinpointing why some wasps aren’t susceptible could reveal the details of a long-held evolutionary battle between all three types of organisms.  

The study highlights that “single genes can interfere with the outcome of [these] interactions,” Herniou says. “One virus may have this gene and the other virus doesn’t have it,” and that can change what happens when virus, caterpillar and parasitoid all collide.

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The story behind the 100% public GM bean reaching Brazilian plates

Daniel Norero | August 31, 2021

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Common bean. Credit: Portal Voz da Comunidade
Common bean. Credit: Portal Voz da Comunidade

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.In some Brazilian supermarkets, it is already possible to buy a new genetically modified (GM) common bean, which bears the corresponding GM labeling as required by local regulations. Nothing about this event would be news, considering that Brazil is the second global power in the production of GM crops after the United States and has seen its stores full of products with GM labels. However, this new bean isn’t another of many GM corn and soybeans typically created by North American companies, but rather a 100% locally developed crop by scientists from a state-owned company in the Amazonian giant.

The journey for this new biotech bean to reach Brazilian markets was long and not free of obstacles. It began in the search for a solution to the troublesome Bean Golden Mosaic Virus (BGMV) that can wipe out more than half of a farmer’s bean plants. This pathogen is transmitted by the whitefly, and causes losses estimated at 300,000 tons per year, enough to feed 15 million people.

“BGMV is a serious problem in tomatoes, soybeans and other plants, but in beans it’s also transmitted by whiteflies in a persistent way. When the insect already acquires the virus, it begins to transmit it throughout its life,” says Francisco Aragão, senior researcher at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) and co-creator of the new Brazilian GM bean. “That is why it is difficult to develop a resistance strategy and it’s also known that if you have only one whitefly per plant, you can already have 100% infection.”

Dr. Francisco Aragao (right) and Dr. Josias Faria (left), “fathers” of the Brazilian GM bean. Photo taken in January 2020 in a GM bean field in the city of Río Verde, Goias state. Credit: Francisco Aragao.

Before the new GM bean, the only BGMV control methods were cultural management, biological control, and the use of pesticides to control the virus host -the whitefly- with little results. “The average application [of pesticides] in a season is 10 times, but there are producers who apply 20 times or more. Even with those apps it is still possible to lose everything on some occasions. And if there is soy nearby, it will be very difficult to control the whitefly population in your beans,” says Aragao.

“The prices of insecticides are very expensive and for small farmers it’s difficult to have to use it so many times. In Brazil we have a very large area -about 1.2 million acres- where it’s not recommended to plant beans due to the great loss probability”.Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

Not just for COVID: RNA also protects crops

Since the 1960s, EMBRAPA researchers have searched for bean cultivars with natural resistance to BGMV throughout the Americas, but results were unsatisfactory. Once only cultivars with only partial resistance and not adapted to Brazilian conditions were identified, EMBRAPA decided to invest in modern biotechnology and GMOs.

“This started in the 90’s when we began to try, on the one hand, to transform beans, which is still one of the most difficult plants to be genetically transformed, and on the other, to study the virus and develop strategies to obtain resistant plants,” Aragao relates. Together with his colleague, Josias Faria, they tried some biotechnological strategies such as antisense RNA -expression of the complementary RNA strand of a gene- and lethal transdominance -expression of a mutated protein that is essential for virus replication-, unfortunately without results or only partial resistance.

“With RNA interference technology, we started in the early 2000s,” Aragao says about RNAi, a natural defense mechanism in plants that “silences genes” but that wasn’t yet fully understood then. Despite this, in the 90’s there had already been success with the Hawaiian papaya, where genetic modification through interfering RNA would save the island’s farmers from the papaya ringspot virus.

How does it work? You’ve probably read or seen a lot in the headlines of the last year about RNA vaccines for COVID-19. In this case, the modifying mechanism with interfering RNA isn’t very different, and it literally works as a “vaccine” for crops. Scientists inserted a DNA fragment of the virus into the nuclear genome of the plant, with the aim of making it produce small double-stranded RNA molecules -known as small interfering RNA or siRNA- that silence the viral rep gene, a key gene for the virus’s replication cycle. As a consequence, the virus is unable to express this gene, its viral replication is interrupted and plants become resistant to the virus. In simple terms, you get a plant “vaccinated” against BGMV.

So in the future, not only will we protect ourselves from pandemics with RNA vaccines, our food can also be protected from deadly viruses with this technology.

It should be noted that this “gene silencing” method is a plant natural mechanism. A normal bean plant that is infected will generate siRNAs later, but not in conditions or levels to deal with the pathogen. With genetic engineering, scientists anticipate and adapt this natural system so that it is triggered the moment the virus enters the plant and it defends itself effectively.

“Something we observe is that flies acquire the virus from plants, but the virus doesn’t replicate in the fly, but in plants… and so the flies acquire more and more viruses,” adds Aragao. “We also observe that when viruliferous flies are put on modified plants, the viral load decreases in the fly, since it releases the virus and has no place to absorb more.”

“It’s interesting and we observe that the same happens for neighboring -not modified- plants”, Aragao indicates, about a potential protector effect that modified beans would have on neighboring conventional crops. “We hope that farmers who produce conventional beans alongside GM bean farmers will also benefit.”

Comparison between an elite line of GM bean resistant to BGMV (right) with healthy leaves and pods, and its conventional counterpart (left) with marked roughness and chlorosis, as well as deformed pods caused by BGMV. Credit: Souza, 2018

From the laboratory to the field

In 2004 the Aragao and Farias team developed the first bean plant immune to BGMV with the siRNA strategy. From 24 modified lines in total, two were immune, and line “5.1” was finally selected–so named since it derives from experiment number 5. “Then we began to do the greenhouse trials, after field trials, the biosafety analyzes and we generated all the data needed to answer all the questions from the National Technical Commission for Biosafety (CTNBio)”, says Aragao.

Aragao and Faria’s team demonstrated that this new GM bean was safe for human consumption, nutritionally equivalent, and had no effects on the environment different than conventional beans. For example, off-target or epigenetic effects were ruled out, and it’s important to note that the inserted transgene doesn’t generate any new proteins, but only small RNAs, which are very unstable molecules and are degraded during food processing.

The collected information was presented to the CTNBio regulators in 2010, approving its commercial release in 2011, a historic milestone as it was developed entirely by a public entity and was the first GM bean in the world. However, why has it taken about a decade to hit the market since that approval?

“We still didn’t have commercial cultivars, and it hasn’t been possible to develop them before because -here in Brazil- all field trials require authorization and also, each field must be in a certified area,” says Aragao about the Brazilian regulatory system. “And for the data generation rules of a new variety, it must be considered that Brazil has five areas for the bean, and we must carry out trials in at least three zones, of each one of the areas, for two years.”

Due to the cumbersomeness of the certification system, EMBRAPA preferred to wait for the commercial release of line 5.1 and only then to breed it with local varieties and endow them with virus resistance. “After commercial approval, you can sow wherever you want and it’s very difficult to have approval for all areas and zones before commercial approval,” adds Aragao.Related article:  15 years after debuting GMO crops, Colombia’s switch has benefited farmers and environment

After more than 31 field trials analyzing agronomic performance, the first GM cultivars of a Pinto -or Carioca- variety suitable for commercial use had already been obtained in 2015. The average yield of the modified cultivar was almost 20% higher than conventional varieties, and in areas with a high incidence of the virus, the profitability of GM beans was 78% higher.

GM bean field in the city of Río Verde, Goias state, in January 2020. Credit: Francisco Aragao

A fascinating piece of information that should be highlighted is the absolute immunity the modified plants have demonstrated since event 5.1 was obtained. “The losses from BGMV are zero. Every year, since we started experimental planting and until the commercial one, we never observe a single plant with the virus, the plants are totally immune,” says Aragao. A strong contrast with the high level of losses in conventional beans that ranges from 40% to 100% of the plants, and the remaining grain is usually deformed or not suitable for sale.

“With this bean, the idea is to have a reduction in pesticide applications. Instead of doing 10 or even 25 applications, the idea is to only do 3 applications (for other pests). What we did was create something more sustainable and safer for consumers”.

Consumer perception and exports

The rules and regulations were not the only problem to be overcome. Since 2015 it had been time to evaluate the best strategy to bring the new GM Pinto bean, a variety that is planted on more than three million hectares and represents 70% of the beans consumed in the country, to Brazilian tables.

“We started to see how to launch it, because beans are not like soybeans, corn or cotton for us. First, it’s a plant that is there on our plate and is consumed every day. Second, it is much more than a staple food, it has a cultural value,” emphasizes Aragao. Since 2015 they had discussed how to conduct the commercial launch, which did not take place until  the second half of 2020, after the seeds multiplication for the first sale.

What has been the attitude of farmers and consumers? In the case of farmers, apparently a success. “The sale of seed has been 100%. The seed producers didn’t sell more because they didn’t have any more,” says Aragao with a laugh. Regarding consumers, it’s still too early to evaluate it, but considering that supermarkets have been selling many products with GMO labeling for years -because GM corn or soybeans derivatives- Aragao hopes that there will be no rejections with the new bean. “If you go to the street and do a survey asking people if they would eat GMOs, probably 40-60% will say no, but in the supermarket they buy it without any problem,” he emphasizes.

Pinto bean package with the new GM variety. It bears the GM label in a yellow triangle with a letter T inside, and below the text: “Product elaborated from GM beans”. Credit: ChileBio

The fact that the Pinto bean produced in Brazil is destined for exclusive local consumption -unlike other varieties- facilitated its commercial release. “We also have modified black beans [from event 5.1], but for now we decided not to launch to the market, since Brazil exports black beans. For example, we have feijoada that is exported canned, and we don’t want to have problems in other countries,” says Aragao.

Genetic editing and new developments

Aragao and his team continue to work on improvements for this Brazilian bean and are already integrating new gene editing technologies to give it greater drought tolerance, decrease phytates (anti-nutritional components), and bestow resistance to other important bean viruses, such as carlavirus.

He also mentions an interesting work carried out with a GMO approach in collaboration with the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey from México in 2016, managing to increase the level of folate (vitamins B9) 150 times, an essential nutrient in fetal development and whose deficiency in pregnant women generates babies with severe congenital problems.

Dr. Francisco Aragao with other GM crops developed under his leadership: A folate-biofortified lettuce (left) and a ricin-free castor bean (right). Credit: ISTOÉ/Embrapa

Other side projects that Aragao and his team are working on include GM lettuce and castor beans. “In lettuce we are working towards virus resistance and an increase in the folate level. We are running field trials and it’s practically ready, but we don’t have all the biosafety data yet. We want to achieve resistance to two very important viruses in lettuce -all over the world – and stack it together with the increase in folate in the same line.”

In castor bean, they seek to eliminate ricin, a highly toxic compound from seeds that makes its use in animal feed unfeasible. “Castor oil plant is a very interesting plant for semi-arid areas, it has a tremendous tolerance to drought and saline soils. The idea is to use a plant like this to obtain not only oil, but also a source of protein for animals,” says Aragao. “The cake that remains after oil extraction is used as fertilizer, but using it as protein for animals would be a much more noble and sustainable purpose.”

Local efforts and science denialism

Until now there has been no opposition from activists and NGOs against the commercial release of the new GM bean. “The anti-GMO groups here in Brazil are fighting against Argentine HB4 wheat, so at least they have forgotten about the bean,” says Aragao. The HB4 wheat he mentions is the first in the world to be approved for commercial release in the neighboring country, but it was conditional on import approval by Brazil, the largest buyer of Argentine wheat.

“Some of the anti-GMO (activists) now claim to be in favor of science for the COVID vaccine. Here we see an example of science denialism. They are deniers depending on the technology, and they don’t consider that some of the modern vaccines are GMOs. To claim that GMOs aren’t safe is simply science denialism. All the scientific data shows that they are safe,” remarks Aragao.

Another important point is that EMBRAPA’s GM bean dismantles the classic narrative against GMOs on the grounds of alleged monopolies or that it’s an exclusive technology of large companies and rich countries. “GM beans are important to show that this technology is not only for big farmers, since we have many small bean farmers in Brazil. Why only for soy, corn and cotton? Why only for large farmers?” asks Aragao.

“It is a technology that can be used for small farmers and to address local problems and crops. Large companies aren’t going to invest in sweet potatoes, cassava, beans or peanuts. They prefer to invest in crops of large areas that are grown in different countries. That is why developing countries have to make an investment in their own problems, and why not, with technologies like this one,” he concludes.

In Brazil, there is hope that this biotechnological solution, fruit of ingenuity and effort of the public sector of Brazil, will be an example to be followed by other Latin American, African and Asian countries. This GM bean approval is a preferrable alternative to walking the European path that has been hindering this technology for more than two decades. Following the Brazilian path shows how to develop local solutions to local problems.

Daniel Norero is a science communications consultant and fellow at the Cornell Alliance for Science. He studied biochemistry at the Catholic University of Chile. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNorero

The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.

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Viral diseases in tomatoes can cause serious damage in greenhouses

Viral diseases of greenhouse tomatoes in North Carolina occasionally cause serious damage and large economic loss. The amount of loss can vary depending on the virus disease involved, the variety of tomato, the age of the plant at infection time, the temperature during disease development, the presence of other diseases, and the extent that viruses have spread in the planting. The dense plant spacing, closed environment, and frequent mechanical contact that is inherent to greenhouse tomato production increase the chances of a viral disease outbreak. Keep in mind that symptoms will vary by strain of virus, age and health of host upon infection, and environmental conditions. The first step in controlling a disease is identifying the causal agent.

Though it has not yet been detected in North Carolina, the Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) was first detected and eradicated in the United States in 2018 and its spread is currently being closely monitored by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS). Peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and cut-leaf ground cherry are all hosts of the virus. It is transmitted by seed and spreads easily via mechanical contact. Symptoms often do not show up until fruit begins to ripen, but symptoms may include mosaic patterns on leaves, leaf narrowing, necrotic pedicles, calyces, and petioles, and smaller, discolored fruit that ripens later.
Control of viruses on tomato requires a complete program that is implemented all year.
Resistant varieties. When possible, plant resistant or tolerant varieties. There are varieties that have varying levels of resistance or tolerance to certain strains of TMV and TSWV.

Read more at enquirerjournal.com

Publication date: Thu 26 Aug 2021

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Pippo Timperanza of the Italian Landolina company

Due to ToBRFV, certain tomato varieties have now become obsolete

“These days, it is not easy to maintain one’s own entrepreneurial policy. We have worked for more than 60 years to harmoniously maintain the balance between tradition and innovation, paying particular attention to ethical principles such as a short supply chain, traceability and respect for the cultivation methods that my family has maintained over several generations. But today we have to face a series of problems that force us to reevaluate and adjust our way of cultivating,” said Pippo Timperanza, director of the Italian cultivation company Landolina.

 Pippo Timperanza

The 40-hectare company from the Sicilian province of Ragusa specializes in substrate cultivation. The cherry, plum and piccadilly tomatoes that Landolina markets are grown in greenhouses covering an area of 10 hectares. In recent years, the focus has shifted to sustainable zero-residue cultivation, a concept that is currently catching on in the sales markets.

 Potted plum tomato TT-633

“The new consumption trends have a lot of influence and we have to learn to understand and welcome them. For example, over the years there has been a lot more focus on food safety and environmental sustainability. As growers, we have to react to this by offering products with a high added value that meet these consumers’ values. We are talking about solar panels and the use of environmentally friendly technical means such as biostimulants and organic plant protection products, but also about adequate water management with recycling of wastewater for fertigation. Each of our choices is the result of dialogue with our commercial partners and thus indirectly with consumers. And to this we now add some of the complex problems that we face as growers today,” said Timperanza.

 Drip irrigation

“Tomato growers are faced with extremely complex challenges that individual growers alone cannot answer. On the one hand, there is the corona virus that has exacerbated the age-old problem of price volatility, and on the other hand, there is the unstoppable spread of the ToBRFV virus.”

 Potted plum tomato TT-633

In terms of cultivation, Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus is the most serious and urgent problem that needs to be addressed. Even if the fruit is not directly damaged, the harvest is lower, the tomatoes are smaller, and they lose color and consistency.

“To tackle the ToBRFV problem, we tested TomaTech’s plum tomato TT-633 last year and are continuing with this variety again this year. Over the long cycle with planting at the end of the summer, which is the most challenging, we have achieved excellent results in terms of yield, consistency and taste. From a technical point of view, we did not encounter any problems in terms of cultivation and the shelf life of the tomatoes is very good, which makes it a suitable product for the Italian and foreign supermarkets. We couldn’t have made a better choice.”

For more information:
Azienda Landolina
Contrada Currumeli Donnalucata 
97010 Scicli (RG) 
+39 335 6582914

Publication date: Thu 12 Aug 2021

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Kenyan small farmers look to genetically engineered disease resistant cassava to improve food security

Xinhua | July 28, 2021

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Credit: Japhet
Credit: Japhet

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Catherine Taracha, a scientist at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (Kalro), is looking forward to starting planting genetically modified (GM) cassava on a trial basis after the government recently approved the process.

“We will do the trials in Western Kenya, at the Coast and in the Eastern part,” Taracha said Monday during a virtual meeting in Nairobi, expressing optimism that in two year’s time, farmers across the country and other parts of East Africa would start growing the crop commercially.Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

In Kenya, only 970,000 tonnes of cassava are produced annually, and this is because of diseases like cassava mosaic and brown streak as well as pests like whiteflies and mealybugs.

For millions of farmers across East Africa, the cassava mosaic disease was a real problem in the mid-1990s as it spread like bush fire in the region, causing over 80 percent yield losses.

Annual yield losses due to the disease are estimated at 7 billion shillings (about 65 million U.S. dollars) in East and Central Africa, according to Taracha.

“We are banking on the GM crop to boost this crop. There is a huge market for cassava because of its huge potential,” she said.

Read the original postRelated article:  China to restrict reliance on foreign seed companies to foster lagging innovation in genetic engineering and advanced breeding

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Grahame Jackson posted a new submission ‘PestNet’s Tales from the Pacific – Taro leaf blight’

PestNet’s Tales from the Pacific – Taro leaf blight

Hi Everyone

The new PestNet website is up and running: www.pestnet.org.

I have written a couple of stories, and put them under Archives. Take a look and if you are interested in taro, taro leaf blight or taro lethal viruses diseases, see them under “Tales from the Pacific”. 

I decided to write a story about Taro Leaf Blight for several reasons:
  • Why did it take 5 years to get donor funding to deal with the disease when it hit Samoa in June 1993 and wiped out the crop in 6 months?
  • How much did luck have to do with getting a program started?
  • Why did results fall far short of my expectations?
  • And, importantly, I wanted to ask:
  • what were the lessons learned, if any?
    • how did they help in dealing with similar pest incursions?
    • how does the disaster of taro leaf blight compare with a recent invasion of the coconut rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes

I have written it in a non-scientific way so that it could be read by a wide audience, as I think there’s a lot to learn from the taro leaf saga and there is still much to doI

If you are interested in taro, its most deadly pathogen, but also broader issues of food and nutritional security of an important but unresearched mainly subsistence crop, then take a look at the story:

Go to PestNet > Archives (from the main menu) >Tales of the Pacific > Taro leaf blight and click on the image
Or click on: Taro leaf blight: my 50-year role in its downfall on the front page, and click on the image
Or go straight to the story at: https://www.pestnet.org/the-taro-leaf-blight-story/  and click on  the image

By the way, the same disease got into West Africa for the first time in 2010 and has done a lot of damage there.

If you have any tales on plant protection, please share.


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‘Coconut palm seeds thoroughly assessed before importation’ — Plant Protection Unit

10 June 202103 Share

The lethal yellowing disease has decimated the coconut palm population here in Antigua and Barbuda. Many hope that the importation and replanting exercises will be completed as soon as possible.

Authorities looking to rebound from impact of lethal yellowing disease

By Orville Williams


In a bid to restock the majestic coconut palms that once adorned Antigua and Barbuda in abundance, the government has already put plans in motion to import 100,000 coconut seeds from Costa Rica.

In light of this, the Plant Protection Unit is assuring that the seeds have been thoroughly vetted to prevent a recurrence of the devastation that nearly rid the country of the plant over the past years. 

The lethal yellowing disease – first discovered in the island in 2012 – has decimated the coconut palm population, setting back beautification efforts and impeding the efforts of small business owners whose livelihoods depend on the sale of coconuts and/or its byproducts. 

During the worst period of the outbreak, a solution was introduced and a formula – Oxytetracycline Hydrochloride (OTC) – developed to “control the amount of the disease agent in the plants”. However, that formula was rather costly and many trees were deemed too far gone to even consider the expensive treatment. 

Fast forward to early this month, the government announced plans to import the seeds from Costa Rica, “for propagation of new coconut palms”. These seeds, the government said, are expected to “produce trees resistant to [the] disease, grow about six feet tall and begin producing fruit shortly after three years of growth”.

The idea to import and replant coconut palms is not new to the government, as consideration was given to acquiring seeds/seedlings/saplings, most recently from Suriname. The Agriculture Ministry’s Plant Protection Unit opposed that idea, however, amid concerns of pests being introduced into the island as a result.

Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr Janil Gore-Francis, had aired those concerns back then, but speaking to Observer on these current plans, she said strict measures have been enforced to ensure safety.

“There has been a process of assessment, we have done our research and our risk assessment with regard to the seeds coming from Costa Rica via the US. [The seeds] have to go through a very stringent process, they have to be certified and so on, so there are specific requirements that have to be met for those seeds to come into Antigua, and that is what has been applied. 

“Some of those seeds have come in already, they must have import permission, they have to be certified, they must be unsprouted [and] a number of [other factors] that would ensure they do not come in with lethal yellowing or any other disease that could be spread by the foliage – which is why we insist that they must come in unsprouted. 

“So, all of that would have been taken into consideration with the risk assessment that would have been done, in order for us to arrive at the approval of those specific nuts coming through that process, under very stringent conditions,” Dr Gore-Francis explained. 

She also disclosed that, based on their observations, the disease is not as prevalent at this point as it had been in the past. 

“We have not really been having as many calls as we were having [for example] back in 2019, with respect to plants that are suspected to have contracted the disease. So, I think we have reached a sort of equilibrium, where I guess those palms that have some sort of tolerance or just have not been infected by lethal yellowing are what remain right now.”

In regard to the treatment formula – OTC – a programme was put in place to provide some relief to homeowners or business operators whose coconut palms were struggling with the disease. 

The formula is injected into the trunk of the plants to keep the level of the phytoplasma down, to allow the plant to thrive. After a while, however, the amount of formula within the plant decreases, which means the plants have to be treated at regular intervals – three to four months – to maintain control of the disease and keep them alive. 

These plants are assessed after interested persons apply to the programme and depending on the condition of the plants, they are either chosen to be treated or rejected if they are “too far gone”.

The plant owners are then allowed to import the formula under specific regulations, which include refraining from using the OTC on plants that are meant for consumption. These regulations, Dr Gore-Francis says, are closely monitored to reduce the various risks associated.

The entire importation and dissemination process of the new plants can’t come soon enough for many, including Barbara Japal, the President of the local Horticultural Society. 

She told Observer, upon news of the importation, “The old saying is, ‘the palm is the charm’. Palm trees are part of the lifeblood [of the country], it’s the industry of so many people in Antigua. Coconuts provide food, they provide medicine to some [and] they provide a tourist attraction in every way.”

Similarly, ‘Granma Aki’ – who makes products including sauces and dips from coconuts – said getting the plants and the coconut industry back in full swing was vital to herself and many others. 

“It’s very urgent and small producers like me, we are suffering. The products that we use coconuts for are in demand, great demand. So, I suppose, if we don’t have any coconuts, they have to come from abroad, the price is going up [and] the quality is not so good.”

As Dr Gore-Francis mentioned, some of the seeds have already arrived in Antigua, but there is no indication as to when the entire bunch will be on island. 

‘Granma Aki’ would certainly hope that it’s sooner, rather than later. 

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Why demand is expected to be strong for virus-resistant wheat

Wheat with the Bdv2 gene (left) and a non-Bdv2 crop © RAGTWheat with the Bdv2 gene (left) and a non-Bdv2 crop © RAGTf

Farmer’s Weekly

Insecticide-free wheat has moved a step closer with the arrival of the hard Group 4 winter wheat variety Wolverine, which is the first to offer barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) resistance.

Added to the latest AHDB Recommended List on a yield of 102%, Wolverine has a specific recommendation for resistance to BYDV and sets an exciting tone for future wheat variety introductions from breeder RAGT, many of which will have resistance to both BYDV and orange wheat blossom midge.

While Wolverine is a high-yielding feed variety, the company also has bread-making wheats with both types of resistance in development – many of which should eliminate the need to apply insecticides throughout the entire growing season.

Against a background of the loss of insecticidal seed treatments, rising resistance levels in pests to the remaining foliar sprays and greater scrutiny of pesticide use, the development of these varieties is a breakthrough.

Their arrival is expected to be as well-received by the supply chain as it is by farmers, in the industry’s quest to sharpen its environmental credentials.

Seed demand

After a limited seed release last year ahead of the recommendation decision, there is enough seed of Wolverine available to meet demand for this autumn’s wheat plantings, RAGT managing director Lee Bennett confirms.

He believes the variety could take a significant market share.Lee Bennett in a trial plot

Lee Bennett © RAGT

“The ideal situation is to have this BYDV resistance in a variety that suits early drilling,” he says. “That’s exactly what we have in Wolverine.”

After two consecutive wet autumns and difficulties with wheat drilling schedules, the opportunity for farmers to get under way while conditions are good, without putting the crop at unnecessary risk from virus-carrying aphids, is a bonus, he notes.

“This will be the second year without the Deter (clothianidin) seed treatments that gave such cost-effective control. The approval of Wolverine gives them a different, more environmentally friendly solution.”

Genetic solution

The genetic alternative to chemical control is performing well in the field, says his colleague Tom Dummett, who confirms that the Bdv2 gene used in Wolverine brings season-long protection from the aphids that transmit the virus.

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“The aphids still arrive, but Wolverine doesn’t express any virus symptoms and the virus doesn’t multiplicate in the plant,” he explains.

“We’re very happy with the way that the gene is working. It’s proved effective in Australia for almost 20 years and is now in the right genetic background to work well in the UK.”

Having previously conducted trials to look at the value of the resistance at different sowing dates and whether the use of one insecticide spray could protect the gene or give a yield uplift, this year’s work by RAGT has a different focus.

The plots were all drilled in early September and then inoculated with aphids infected with the PAV strain of BYDV, both in the autumn and the spring.

BYDV pressure

The idea was to create severe BYDV pressure, explains Mr Dummett, with one-third being left untreated, one-third receiving an autumn insecticide, and the remaining plots getting both an autumn and spring insecticide.

At the time of Farmers Weekly‘s visit in June, varieties without the BYDV resistance gene were showing clear symptoms of the virus in the untreated plots.

Wolverine and the other RAGT lines with the Bdv2 gene were symptom-free.

The PAV strain of BYDV is the most common, Mr Dummett says, but the company is confident that the resistance is broad-spectrum as tests have confirmed that it also controls the MAV and RPV strains.

Wolverine’s agronomic features

Agronomically, Wolverine is a later-maturing type, with a +2 for ripening.

It has stiff straw and good resistance to brown rust, but is middle-of-the-road for septoria (5.3) and did take on some yellow rust last year, so has a score of 5. As such, it needs to be grown with care and frequent monitoring.

Seed cost

The previous cost of using Deter (clothianidin) seed treatments and an insecticide for BYDV control has been factored into the cost of growing Wolverine.

As it was last year, the variety will be sold via the Breeders’ Intellectual Property Office system, which means that the value of the trait will be charged direct to farmers on an area basis rather than by tonnage.

That charge will be £33/ha, and RAGT points out that it covers season-long protection and eliminates the need to monitor aphid populations or repeatedly spray at a busy time of year.

Competitive advantage

RAGT has a head start over other breeding companies when it comes to BYDV resistance, as it is the only UK plant breeder with Bdv2.

The company has two feed wheat varieties coming along closely behind Wolverine, followed by four bread-making types with both BYDV and orange wheat blossom midge resistance.

The Bdv2 gene originated in goat grass and was translocated onto a wheat chromosome by Australian researchers, who went on to breed BYDV-resistant wheats.

There are four other known BYDV resistance genes, most of which are being investigated by RAGT. Bdv3 and Bdv4 work differently to Bdv2, for example, but may bring other benefits when put into the right genetic background.

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