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Plant pathologist finding Kansas wheat fields a molecular battleground this season
Date:6/22/2011

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- With harvest in full swing, many farmers have found that the brutal combination of high winds, scorching temperatures and minimal rainfall has left most wheat yields looking less like the good or the bad and more like the ugly.

But as a Kansas State University plant pathologist is finding in a statewide study, Kansas wheat this year also has been battling a much smaller opponent: viruses.

"We're still analyzing samples, but it's turning out that the viruses in wheat are extremely abundant this year," said Anna Whitfield, an associate professor of plant pathology who studies the plant-virus-vector interactions at the molecular level. Whitfield's extensive research in this area led to the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative this month to name her one of the state's top 150 scientists of past and present. So far Kansas State has had seven active faculty members named as top scientists in Kansas.

This summer Whitfield is part of a small collaboration that for six months has been investigating the diversity of wheat-infecting viruses across the state. The study, "Enabling Biotechnological Breakthroughs for Effective Control of Wheat Virus Diseases in Kansas," is intended to find what are the most important viruses infecting Kansas wheat, as well as what the yield losses are to those viral diseases.

"For more than 30 years wheat testing has been based on visuals," Whitfield said. "With this study we're able to take samples back to the lab to test for those diseases that can't be seen by the naked eye. The thought is that there are other viruses out there, and we're finding that's the case."

In an effort to detect these viruses, Whitfield and colleague Dorith Rotenberg, research assistant professor, are testing nearly 800 plant tissue samples collected throughout Kansas. The duo tests the samples through a process called enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA for short. ELISA uses antibodies to detect viral p
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Contact: Anna Whitfield
aewtospo@k-state.edu
785-532-3364
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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