Virus and Virus-Like Diseases of Fruit Trees, Small Fruits, and Grapevines

Diseases caused by viruses and virus-like organisms are serious threats to the tree fruit, berry, and grapevine industries in the U.S. and Canada. Plum pox virus is the most economically devastating disease of stone fruits globally; the effects of this disease alone on tree fruit and nursery industries has led to $80 million spent in the United States and $65 million spent in Canada on attempts to detect, eradicate, and manage the virus. WERA-020 facilitates a reduction in the impact of these kinds of diseases by providing a unique network that encourages interaction among regulatory agencies, researchers, and extension specialists.

This project effectively fostered collaborations that led to significant advancements in virus and virus-like disease management for perennial fruit crops that represent $18 million annually in U.S. production.

WERA-020’s research and education activities have addressed two fundamental levels of disease control: 1) understanding disease characteristics and developing early detection methods that limit economic damage; 2) supporting quarantines and programs that exclude diseases from commercial production areas. In particular, WERA-020 provided much of the expertise for early research and strategies for the plum pox virus when it was first diagnosed in 1999. This research has continued to inform proactive testing in major fruit producing states, as well as the disease eradication program currently in progress in New York. WERA-020 scientists have also revealed the causes of diseases that limit blackberry production. With funding from a Specialty Crops Research Initiative grant, researchers from Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Oregon have identified and studied the viruses involved in yellow vein disease, crumbly fruit, and decline of blackberry. WERA-020 has become the primary scientific forum for the exchange of technical information between the centers across the U.S. that are part of the newly formed National Clean Plant Network. Better information flow has improved testing methods and operations management, increasing the availability of virus-tested living tissues that provide genetic resources for breeding programs as well as cultivated plant varieties for commercial use. In addition, WERA-020 scientists have developed and distributed virus-free plantings and other propagation sources for nurseries and growers.

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