• Question: What viruses have u found or any other stuff that u were fascinated by?

    Asked by anon-357540 on 15 Mar 2023.
    • Photo: Alison Tidy

      Alison Tidy answered on 15 Mar 2023:

      During my undergraduate (university) I loved learning about all the different viruses and basically the arms race between the virus and the plant – where the viruses overcome a resistance in the plant, and then the plant has to adapt to protect itself from the virus. As scientist/plant breeders we often look to other species/cultivars to find their resistance to that pathogen and breed it into the sensitive plant – but it often takes decades to make a plant resistant to a pathogen, and then the virus can overcome it really quickly if we are unlucky, and we need to start all over again.

    • Photo: Alexandra Milliken

      Alexandra Milliken answered on 15 Mar 2023:

      I have not discovered any viruses myself. However, I have looked at the Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV), which infects a plant through open wounds and then makes viral proteins inside the plant, which spreads. It is a known cause of tobacco and tomato crop loss.

    • Photo: Ian Adams

      Ian Adams answered on 15 Mar 2023:

      I work a lot on plant viruses. Have discovered quite a few over the last few years. The one that was most useful was finding the cause of the destruction of maize crops in Kenya. Maize is a staple food in Kenya and many farmers were losing their crops. Actually turned out NOT to be a new disease but variants of two viruses that hadn’t been seen in Africa before. Genetic data suggests the variants were probably introduced accidentally from China. The most interesting was probably a recent virus we found working with a scientist from the USA. He did his PhD in the UK in the seventies on a virus found in weeds on the roadside. It was forgotten about for 50 years until we found his vial of dried leaf material. We looked at it and discovered that it was the same as a virus just found in kiwi fruit in New Zealand, Black Berries in Canada and weeds in Belgium and the Netherlands. We all worked together and published it as one big article. Great working across the globe.

    • Photo: Phil Howell

      Phil Howell answered on 15 Mar 2023:

      I’ve never worked directly on viruses but they are important in my area of work because they can cause important diseases that reduce the yield and quality of crops. Some live in the soil and come into the plant through the roots. Many are carried by insects and when the insects land on the crop plants to feed on their sap the viruses get transmitted from the insect to the plant.

    • Photo: Sam Mugford

      Sam Mugford answered on 15 Mar 2023:

      I’ve done a little bit of work with plant viruses. Many plant viruses are carried by aphids and they cause the infections, it’s why aphids are such a big problem for farmers. I’ve never discovered any new viruses, but i have found a lot of other stuff that I am fascinated by. Something i have found out is about a protein that is in aphid saliva, and they inject it into plants when they are feeding. The protein stops the plant immune system from working, so the plant does not defend itself against the aphid.

    • Photo: Felipe Becerra

      Felipe Becerra answered on 16 Mar 2023:

      Not a virus, but I think Agrobacterium is the coolest bacteria. It can transfer its DNA to the plant! Literally a mutant! Because of this ability to transfer DNA has been widely use in biotechnology.

      Check this video for a demo of how it can be used in plant sciences.

    • Photo: Omnia Elshorbagy

      Omnia Elshorbagy answered on 16 Mar 2023:

      I have worked with different viruses throughout my research career since 2010, I isolated viruses from several plants such as Squash, potato, tomato, pepper, tobacco and cucumber. One of the surprising results is while isolating squash leaf curl virus from squash plants we found that it is co-infected with Chickpea chlorotic dwarf virus and it was the first report of that. Working with viruses usually has several unexpected results as they have the ability to sustain for a long time.