Investigations into the "off type" of blueberry

Blueberry is a high-value crop that is cultivated in Germany on approx. 3000 ha. In recent years, blueberry plants with an untypical growth behavior have been noticed more and more frequently in plantations. This so-called "off type" has developed into a problem that is threatening the existence of the farmers due to dramatic yield losses. The disease is mainly characterized by stunted growth, leaf reddening and reduced fruit set with smaller fruits. Numerous attempts to clarify the cause were unsuccessful. Initial investigations into the viral status at DSMZ applying our in-house high throughput sequencing (Illumina HTS) infrastructure have led to the identification of two novel viruses in diseased plants, a mitovirus and a luteovirus, the latter of which may well be involved in disease expression. In order to secure blueberry cultivation, further investigations are absolutely necessary and are underway in a project which started in April 2023, funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Innovationsprogramm BMEL - FKZ: 281D124C21).

Diversity, distribution and impact of viruses causing diseases on legume crops in Botswana

Botswana is a medium-sized country in Southern Africa and agriculture is the most dominant economic activity in terms of number of people involved and the geographical coverage. Legume crops are an integral component of arable agriculture in Botswana, particularly in subsistence farming where they are key sources of nutrition for both humans and livestock. The main legume crops grown are cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp), common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea), groundnut  (Arachis hypogaea L.) and mungbean (Vigna radiata L.). The productivity of legume crops is very low due to a number of abiotic and biotic factors including viral diseases and increasing the average yield of these crops remains a great challenge for sustainable production. Very little information on the occurrence and economic impact of viruses on legume crops grown in the country is available. Given the importance of the crops and the potential threat of virus diseases, generating information on the occurrence and impact of virus diseases in legume crops in Botswana and devising possible control options for the major ones is of utmost importance. In this project, which is funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, we are working on solutions to this problem together with our project partner Prof Adane Abraham at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST, Palapye) in comprehensive field surveys and seed analyses.

International collection research projects

European Virus Archive (EVA-GLOBAL)
The Horizon 2020 project EVA-GLOBAL gathers academic institutions at the forefront of human, animal and plant virology research. EVA-GLOBAL will become the largest virtual virus collection. Apart from making available isolates of cultivable and non-cultivable viruses, diagnostic reagents and protocols, extensive research activities are performed. The quality of the virus reference materials provided will not only be defined by the identification and purity, but also by key factors like stability, homogeneity and possible inactivation techniques will be assessed. Generally accepted standards for the characterization, production and handling of reference materials will be developed. In addition, this unique international community aims at becoming the most responsive network to improve the control of emerging or re-emerging virus outbreaks at the global level.