‘Vaccine’ for peach trees: scientist fights honey fungus | Agriculture

DENISE ATTAWAY Clemson University

South Carolina’s fishing industry is a major contributor to the state’s economy and the fruit is a favorite for many, but a devastating mushroom is a constant threat to this gem of the South.

The honey fungus (Armillaria tabescens) causes Armillaria root rot, also known as oak root rot. There is no control for this disease, which costs farmers millions of dollars each year in crop losses.

Some scientists at Clemson University are studying this fungus to help South Carolina peach growers grow more profitable crops. The latest study is led by Sachin Rustgi, assistant professor of molecular selection at the Clemson Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence.

Rustgi received a grant from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture to develop Armillaria root rot management strategies. This study involves a two-pronged approach, including the “vaccination” of peach trees with the tomato yellow leaf curl virus. The virus used for this study has been modified so that it does not cause disease and replicates as it spreads in host plants.

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“During our study, we propose to modify the tomato yellow leaf curl virus by installing a piece of Armillaria root rot resistant pathogen that will produce copies as the virus grows. replies, ”Rustgi said. “It will work a bit like a vaccine against the fungus. We believe this will help stop the spread of the fungus and make the host plant resistant to Armillaria root rot.

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In addition to “vaccinating” the host plants, the study also involves treating the surrounding soil with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) to target Armillaria root rot. The results of the tests will be made available to producers during meetings and field days. All security measures will be observed.

“We will be in constant communication with the Environmental Protection Agency during our study and testing,” said Rustgi.

South Carolina is the second largest producer of peaches in the United States. In 2020, South Carolina produced 80,000 tonnes of peaches, generating approximately $ 113 million in revenue. In addition, the fishing industry creates around 1,500 jobs per year.

However, over the past decade the fishing industry has suffered severe production losses due to unpredictable weather conditions and root diseases, namely Armillaria root rot. This disease worsens with continued replanting in the same orchard.

Armillaria root rot costs peach growers in South Carolina and Georgia more than $ 8 million a year.

Clemson Fishing Research

To help solve problems in the fishing industry, Clemson University has an interdisciplinary team of researchers and officers from the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service who provide research-based information to advance the industry. fruit farm in South Carolina and beyond. The Peach team consists of university researchers, county extension officers and specialists working together to solve problems in the fishing industry.

At REC Edisto in Blackville, Clemson plant bacteriologist Hehe Wang is leading an effort against the bacterium Xanthomonas arboricola pv. pruni (Xap). This bacteria causes bacterial spot disease. New strains that are resistant to antibiotics and tolerant of the copper spray used to manage bacterial spots have appeared in South Carolina peach orchards.

“Annual losses of more than $ 20 million are estimated during years of heavy disease in South Carolina and Georgia,” Wang said. “This disease is difficult to control and once it hits an orchard it is there for the life of that orchard. It is a constant battle.

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In addition to locations around the state, research on Clemson’s peach also takes place at the Musser Fruit Research Center, which is part of the Piedmont REC.

For more information on Clemson fishing research, visit https://bit.ly/CU_PeachResearch.

Denise Attaway reports for Civil Service and Agriculture at Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.

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