US researcher concern at fast spreading cotton disease

US researcher concern at fast spreading cotton disease

Cotton
Cotton leaf roll virus is causing headaches in the US.

Cotton leaf roll virus is causing headaches in the US.

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A cotton disease common in South America has made its way to North America and has authorities concerned it could become a pandemic.

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AUSTRALIAN cotton industry authorities are closely monitoring the emerging situation with a novel disease that is threatening the US cotton industry.

The emerging cotton leaf roll dwarf virus is threatening the entire US industry, with aphid-borne virus capable of killing up to 80 per cent of plants.

It has existed for some years in places such as South America and India but has only recently become a major problem in the US.

In particular it is a threat in the southern cotton belt, with problems emerging in states such as Alabama, where the disease was discovered earlier in the year.

The disease, spread by cotton aphids, is especially problematic in the US as varieties are not bred for resistance to the virus.

American authorities are throwing extra funding at the disease, with the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarding a $150,000 Rapid Outcomes for Agriculture Research (ROAR) grant to Auburn University to study the effectiveness of existing and new cotton strains at resisting the disease.

"Cotton leaf roll dwarf virus is the latest concern threatening southern cotton farmers and, if left unchecked, this virus could become a pandemic," said FFAR executive director Sally Rockey. "Increasing our knowledge of resistance and developing extension tools for farmers while the virus is still relatively contained is the best way to slow the disease's spread," Dr Rockey said.

Cotton leaf roll dwarf virus, prevalent in Argentina and Brazil, was first detected in two Alabama counties in 2017. One year later, the virus spread to 21 Alabama counties as well as cotton fields in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.

A problem in the US is that with cotton leaf roll virus a relatively new phenomenon the popular varieties are not bred to be resistant to the disease.

In South America, most varieties are resistant to the varieties.

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