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.