U of I potato expert to lead a team of researchers in a project to target potato viruses

U of I potato expert to lead a team of researchers in a project to target potato viruses
Posted at 10:29 AM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 13:36:56-04

IDAHO  — Led by the University of Idaho potato virus expert, Alex Karasev, a team of researchers will lead a project to target potato viruses causing detrimental losses to the potato industry.

"It's very fitting because Idaho is the biggest potato producing state in the country," said Karasev.

The researchers, from ten different states, received a $5.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture to target viruses PVY in potatoes and PMTV in seed potatoes.

"Both of these viruses make the quality go down, essentially making it unusable for processing or for fresh markets or for all other applications," said Karasev.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Idaho produces nearly one-third of all U.S. potatoes. According to the U of I study, these viruses cause an estimated $34 million a year loss for Idaho's potato industry.

"In addition to just simple yield loss, you will end up with complete quality loss, so it's a pretty significant problem, and the industry has actually struggled with these viruses for quite some time," said Karasev.

Immediately they hope to develop better testing to help seed potato producers limit the spread of the viruses in production and in the fields.

"Our next level goal is essentially managing the effect of these viruses," he said. "Trying to find the solutions, either treatments or special adaptions to mitigate the effect of the virus."

They eventually hope to develop genes that can provide resistance to the viruses so that growers can have virus-free potatoes.

"It's very important," said Karasev. "We feel very responsible for all the potatoes wellbeing in our country."