Mysterious 'Virus'?
Appears Throughout
Kansas Wheat Fields

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
From ProMED-mail
Kansas City Star
An unidentified wheat virus has agricultural scientists in Kansas scratching their heads. The pathogen causes wheat leaves to yellow and die, but it's not caused by wheat streak mosaic, head death or freezing.
"We're pretty sure it's a virus," said wheat breeder Joe Martin, who works at the Kansas State University research station at Hays. "It showed up early and, at first glance, we thought it was wheat streak mosaic. But it's not. It kills the oldest leaves of the plant and finally kills the head." Researchers don't know what the virus is, where it came from, or how it spreads.
Martin said he's seen evidence of the virus in almost every field he's checked in western Kansas, but it hasn't taken over the crop. He encouraged farmers to be on the lookout when checking their fields.
Dallas Seifers, a plant pathology professor at Fort Hays State University, is trying to determine how the pathogen works, and what it might be.
"It's possible that this is something that has been identified somewhere else in the world, even something that has shown up in a different crop, corn or rice or something," Seifers said.
Seifers, with the help of some virologists in Winnipeg, Canada, is trying to identify the protein that causes the virus' symptoms. That work is complicated by the fact that most affected plants found in the field are already dead. Seifers is trying to grow his own supply of infected plants to study, but the effort hasn't been as successful as he hoped.
Once researchers identify the protein's genetic sequence, they can compare it to known pathogens to find a match, or one that is in the same family.
Seifers said it's possible that the virus is showing up now because of recent unusual weather patterns, and that it wouldn't show up in a normal year.
"We're just happy that it is not in large enough numbers to have an economic impact this year, and we hope it will be spotty if it shows up next year," he said.
[A 28-kD protein has been specifically associated with infected plants. More research is needed to determine the mode of spread of the pathogen. Also needed is more information about the protein and its relationship to disease expression. - Mod.DH] ..........mpp/dh/pg/lm
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at: Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa Go with God and in Good Health



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