Fulbright fellow Dr. Basavaprabhu Patil recently shared his research on viral diseases with Fort Valley State University (FVSU) students and faculty.
Dr. Somashekhar Punnuri, FVSU research assistant professor, invited the principal scientist from the ICAR-Indian Institute of Horticultural Research in Bengaluru, India. Patil is visiting the University of California, Davis for nine months as a Fulbright-Nehru academic and professional excellence fellow.
Viral diseases of crop plants cause significant yield and economic losses, and this poses a major threat to global food security. There are no effective antiviral chemicals available. The most effective option to combat phytopathogenic viruses is through biotechnological interventions, such as the use of RNA silencing and genome editing technologies.
For that reason, Patil’s research focuses on viral diseases of orphan crops and biotechnological remedies for their control.
“Most cultivated crops are affected by viruses,” he told the FVSU group during his presentation in the Stallworth Biotechnology auditorium. His discussion included the diversity of plant viruses, the structure of virus particles, their life cycle and resistant genes. He further presented information on cross-protection against plant viruses and the cultivation of transgenic plants in Hawaii and Brazil, as well as virus-resistant cassava in Africa.
According to Patil, at least 136 different viruses are known to infect tomatoes, whereas this is significantly lower for other vegetable crops. In addition, 49 viruses are reported to infect peppers, 46 infect melons, 53 infect lettuce, 54 infect potatoes and 44 infect eggplants. Only cucurbits are infected by more viruses (153) than tomatoes.
Conventional virus control strategies involve quarantine, improved agronomic practices, changing cropping practices, breeding for host-plant resistance and chemical control of viral insect vectors. Patil developed a double-stranded RNA-based foliar application technology that worked best against several viruses. The research team at Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri, where Patil worked, collected cassava samples from East Africa for diverse studies and conducted field trials of transgenic plants in East Africa. He also developed MiRNA-induced gene silencing (MIGS) technology for the control of multiple pests and pathogens in cotton.
The next step in his research is taking this information to the farmers to help in the field. He noted this study is safe, and there is no cross-transmission of genes. The Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund program sponsored this visit.