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Cowpea mild mottle virus (CPMMV), a whitefly transmitted virus of the genus Carlavirus, is known to naturally infect leguminous and solanaceous crops in Africa, Asia and South America. Different strains have been distinguished based on cytopathic effects and serological reactions, but sufficient molecular data for strain demarcation were missing. In order to establish a clearer picture of CPMMV variability, the genome sequences and biological characteristics of several different isolates are under investigation. First results suggest that based on the molecular criteria for Carlavirus species demarcation (ICTV), some could be regarded as distinct species rather than strains.                     PI: Dr. Wulf Menzel

Cucurbits are important horticultural crops and grown especially in warm climates. International exchange of germplasm, climatic change and change in agricultural practice has resulted in an increase of virus problems, especially from viruses transmitted by whiteflies. Virus situations undergo constant changes and hence monitoring viruses in field and managed environments is highly important for plant production. Cucurbit virus diseases in Sudan are currently studied revealing new viruses for Sudan which often are present in multiple infections leading to serious plant diseases. This project is conducted in collaboration with Khalid Hamed (Sudan).                                  

PI: Wulf Menzel

Tuber crops -potato, sweet potato and yam - are propagated through tubers and cuttings and thus often carry multiple viruses which were acquired during cultivation and passed through the next season. Infected plants often do not respond with pronounced symptoms however when virus infections are introduced to new environments, serious disease problems can occur. The description of new viruses, their geographical variants and strains and the development of diagnostic tests for ecological studies on viruses infecting yam is studied in collaboration with the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute of India, CTCRI.

Cassava is the most important food crop in sub Sahara Africa and vulnerable to virus attacks. An especially serious threat to cassava cultivation in East Africa is presented by viruses transmitted by whiteflies. The department is monitoring the disease situation and viruses in areas of major cassava production. This is to follow adaptation of viruses, the development of new strains or variants and virus population drifts causing more serious diseases. Identification of new viruses or pathogenic variants supports early interventions for disease control and prevention. The etiology of cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) was elucidated and genomes of distinct virus species were characterised and proven as disease agents. It was found that cassava shows a differential host reaction and hence virus diversity is currently studied to link susceptible and resistant plant responses to virus type.

Within the NextGen Cassava project Cassava plants resistant to the CBSD were recently identified. More information here (outlink to Facebook).

INEA The International network on edible aroids is a consortium of major institutions of the world to address genetic improvement of Taro and to provide farmers of the world with improved and healthy plant materials for validation in their respective environment.
Edible aroids, Taro, Xanthosomas, Amorphophallus, are important food crops in the tropics and the basis of daily food for many people. Despite their significance, edible aroids are orphan crops that have not and do not receive much attention from breeding and agronomy.
Our task in INEA is to provide and prescribe diagnostic procedures to safeguard the international movement of valuable Aroid germplasm and to revise current diagnostic procedures. An inventory of viruses infecting aroids will be established and the aetiology of the most serious virus diseases is studied.                                                                               

 PI: Dr. Stephan Winter