PI: Dr. Wulf Menzel
Diseases of sugar beet caused by insect-transmitted viruses have been controlled by use of neonicotinoid insecticides applied as seed trenches. Because of growing concerns over their environmental impact, in particular to bee populations, those insecticides have been banned leaving the fate of sugarbeet infecting viruses uncertain.
We study virus diseases of sugarbeet in various agricultural environments of the European sugarbeet production.
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. A presumably low virus titer and an uneven distribution in the shrubs still make a reliable diagnosis by RT-PCR difficult, so that a clear correlation could not yet be established. In order to safeguard blueberry production in Germany, further investigations are absolutely necessary and ongoing.
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.
The VirusCurate project aims to improve the quality of collections material, through the comprehensive molecular characterization of virus isolates, which may have been previously characterized only biologically and serologically. In the past, it has sometimes turned out that individual isolates were not correctly taxonomically assigned or could not be identified at all. Such material, without sequence information, is not suitable as reference material, especially for regulated viruses. It is particularly important to have well authenticated and comprehensively characterized reference isolates available for e.g. test development and validation. As one of the partners of the project VirusCurate, the DSMZ Plant Virus Department contributes to the important task of safeguarding the long-term availability of high quality reference isolates.