In agriculture, viruses are responsible for high losses. Plant viruses can cause damage in crops leading to non-marketable crops and lower yields due to growth reduction and disturbance in flowering and fruit setting. In plant virus research, colleagues of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture and Plant Research International work closely together. In current research projects we work on viruses in various crops, such as greenhouse vegetables, ornamentals, bulb crops and potato.
Plant viruses can be transmitted from different sources, such as soil, weeds and other crops. The transmission of viruses is possible via various vectors, such as fungi, insects, nematodes and man (via contact or machinery). Climate change is in favour of new insect vectors, which may be able to introduce new viruses into the Netherlands.
Viruses in plants cannot be directly controlled by chemicals. Therefore growers have to take measures to prevent infection and virus spread. Possible virus vectors like whiteflies, thrips and aphids have to be controlled and hygiene measures are of utmost importance. Because of the ban of pesticides and hygiene measures might not be sufficient, it became more important to seek for alternative strategies. Examples of such strategies are improving resilience, resistance, alternative ways on disinfection, and symptom suppression. An example is the use of an attenuated strain of Pepino mosaic virus to protect the plants for more aggressive strains.
Using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS)
One of the latest strategies in plant virus research is the use of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). This technique resolves the sequences of RNA or DNA of plants sample, in which viruses can be detected and identified. The use of NGS led to breakthroughs in current research projects and the identification of new viruses.