Researchers Warn Against Potato Virus


A trip to McDonald’s is rarely considered complete without fries.

Burger meals are rarely without French fries, but recent research shows that customers should, in fact, be wary of their favorite fried potatoes.

Potato experts across the United States of America have been conducting studies on the PVY or potato virus Y, which has slowly been spreading across many states.

What’s worse is that new strains of the virus are quickly spreading.

Mark Pavek, Washington State University’s potato specialist and associate professor at the Department of Horticulture, said that the original PVY was responsible for making potatoes “unmarketable” and could reduce the number of potatoes produced annually.

The virus is difficult to spot with just the naked eye, so preventing it from spreading to other potatoes is near impossible.

Now, there are new potato virus strains like the PVY-NO and PVY-NTN, which are becoming more common than PVY.

The virus spreads because of the aphids that go from potato plant to potato plant.

While there are measures used to prevent such spreading, most potato growers rely only on physical observation of the plan to identify diseased plants.

This is becoming increasingly difficult with the new PVY strains.

Pavek said that growers now have to rely on lab tests to distinguish which plants have been infected.

This takes a lot more time and effort. Testing kits have been developed for the growers to use on leaf samples, but even with the quick kits, the potato industry will obviously be slowing down because each potato plant has to be infected.

Specialists in the potato industry across the country have developed strain-resistant varieties, but they are still new to the industry, and because of the immense number of potato varieties out there, they might only apply to a few niches.

To help protect the industry, the Washington State University professors held a potato virus detection workshop at the Othello Research Farm, which makes the detection easier since the region’s climate, soil, and irrigation system make crop production quicker and earlier.

More than 100 growers, scientists, commissioners, and seed certifiers attended the event.

There were even some participants from other countries like Canada and India.

The workshop, which is sponsored by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Small Crops Research Initiative, made sure that its participants got to see first-hand how the virus detection process goes.

They also were taught about the different potato virus strains, and the difficulties they could encounter in identifying the strains and the new potato varieties.

The farm also houses an area where Washington State University holds trials and demonstrations on the potatoes they study.

For this year, the school planted 355 seed samples. These came from all over the country.

When grown, these plants will be inspected for viruses and other diseases. The results are then reported during the university’s Potato Field Day every year in June.

Pavek stressed the importance of the workshop and the testing of the plants.

He said that the state of the potato industry relies on the early identification and prevention of the virus.

Pavek is proud to say, though, that their workshop aligns with WSU’s Grand Challenges, a group of research initiatives that focuses on solving and studying social issues.

Rob Clark admin staff managing editor

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