New plant viruses constitute major threats to food security – Virologist

plant virus
plant virus

A Plant Virologist, Prof. Lava Kumar said on Tuesday that some viruses such as cassava mosaic, maize streak and cassava brown streak have been established to constitute major threats to food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Kumar, the Head, Germplasm Health Unit and Virologist, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, said this at the national conference of the Nigerian Society for Plant Virology, held at IITA.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the maiden conference has its theme as ‘Plant Virology for Food Security’.

Kumar listed other viruses that could be dangerous as cocoa swollen shoot, banana bunchy top and maize lethal necrosis.

He explained that the viruses have endemic status, re-emerging and invasive depending on the geographic occurrence and risk of invasion.

He added that endemic viruses infecting indigenous crops such as yam mosaic on white yam are persistent factors for low yields.

The virologist emphasized that genetic resistance that rescued cassava from mosaic and maize from streak had proven to be the most practicable and effective option to control viruses in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

“Recent efforts on virus control in SSA are increasingly based on the knowledge generated from the improved understanding of virus diversity, improved diagnostics, use of the next generation sequencing for virus discovery, vorus-vector-host dynamics and disease epidemiology,” he said.

Also speaking, the President of the Society, Prof. Stephen Shoyinka, noted that plant viruses could cause significant losses in the yield of many crops in Nigeria.

Shoyinka said that the establishment of IITA in Ibadan and the availability of modern diagnostic equipment led to a dramatic increase and improvement in plant virus research in Nigeria.

The president said that the aim of the conference was to bring together stakeholders in the field of plant virology to advance the quality of training and practice of the science of plant virology.

This, he said, would be achieved through presentation of findings of research to combat losses due to virus disease in food and economic crops.

Also, the Oyo state Commissioner for Science and Technology, Prof. Kehinde Sangodoyin, urged the scientists to look for ways of addressing the issues facing plant virology in the country.

He also tasked them to come up with good practices farmers could deploy to boost food production in Oyo state and Nigeria at large.

Earlier, the IITA Director-General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, represented by one of the scientists in the institute, Dr Seathre May-Guri, said IITA contributed significantly to the capacity building of virologists in Nigeria and Africa.

“However, we can do a lot of breeding here, but at the end we will still need the work of the virologists and other related experts, so the conference is an important one in a such a time,” he said.

High point of the event was the presentation of an award to Prof. Shoyinka for his immense contributions to the development of the society and the official inauguration of the society. (NAN)

-Oct 29, 2019 @16:19 GMT |