1 month ago

Auburn University research team tackles new cotton virus

Since a potentially devastating cotton virus was detected in Alabama fields in 2017, Auburn University researchers and Alabama Extension specialists have been working to learn everything they can so farmers can minimize their risks.

The team has worked so diligently that Auburn has been designated a U.S. Department of Agriculture Center of Excellence for Auburn’s focus on the virus known as cotton leaf roll dwarf virus (CLRDV).

The virus was detected through the work of Kathy Lawrence, professor in Auburn’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, and crop consultant Drew Schrimsher, who collected field samples that were identified by Judith Brown, a virologist and University of Arizona professor.

The effort took on a sense of urgency with a call in October 2018 from Extension Plant Pathologist Austin Hagan, who had just seen extreme symptoms of the virus in Baldwin County cotton. First symptoms of the virus include drooping leaves that become crinkled.

“His exact words were, ‘Holy cow!’” said Jenny Koebernick, assistant professor and cotton breeder in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science. “I called for a field day to be held the next week. The field in Loxley had nearly 100% incidence and yield loss, and it was the kind of thing where you had to see it to believe it.”

Koebernick invited researchers from the University of Georgia, University of Florida, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, University of Tennessee, Cotton Inc., USDA and private seed company representatives to see the damage caused by CLRDV.

A meeting followed in November 2018 with representatives from Cotton Inc., the Alabama Farmers Federation and various researchers, Koebernick said.

“All disciplines came together to discuss this complex issue and how to possibly approach it,” she said. “We requested and received funds from the College of Agriculture that allowed us to collect cotton plants and confirm the presence of CLRDV in 13 counties.”

Since that time, Auburn has been awarded grants for research to help farmers battle CLRDV. These include $150,000 from Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research-Rapid Outcomes for Agricultural Research and $325,000 from USDA-Crop Protection and Pest Management Program, with matching funds from Cotton Inc. and the College of Agriculture. Southern IPM Center, Critical and Emerging Issues contributed $10,000; Cotton Inc., more than $200,000 spread across the different disciplines; Southern IPM CLRDV Sentinel Plot Working Group $39,917; and Alabama Cotton Commission $80,000. The research team is sharing in a $5 million federal agricultural appropriation with the USDA Soil Dynamics Lab at Auburn.

The Center of Excellence (COE) designation is awarded through the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Crop Production and Pest Management grant program. This designation helps researchers gain recognition and receive special consideration to achieve additional status as a group leading efforts to address CLRDV. It also gives priority for competitive funding offered through NIFA.

Bringing expertise together

“We proposed a COE that brings together expertise at Auburn University and the University of Georgia that integrates insect population ecology, virology, vector-virus-plant interactions, integrated pest management and agronomic expertise to better understand the epidemiology of aphid-transmitted viruses and investigate virus disease management in cotton agro-ecosystems,” said Alana Jacobson, associate professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and a leader on the research team.

“This represents a novel approach that will creatively address critical challenges posed by insect-transmitted plant viruses associated with invasive viral diseases that threaten agricultural production at local, state, regional and national levels,” Jacobson said.

The proposal, she said, works toward developing an integrated pest management program that preserves the economic viability of U.S. cotton production.

“A major component of this project will be minimizing the chemical footprint of insect-management practices in a production system that has become wholly dependent on prophylactic pesticide use that has cascading impacts on pests, beneficial organisms and the environment,” Jacobson said. “This multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary AU-UGA cotton team is comprised of faculty at all career stages and is uniquely positioned to lead CLRDV research and extension efforts in the U.S. due to their complementary skill sets and knowledge.”

The Auburn team has forged collaborations with extension and research entomologists, plant pathologists and agronomists in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, along with leading experts in virology and vector biology at the University of Arizona and the USDA Boyce Thompson Research Center at Cornell University.

What is known about CLRDV

What the team knows about the virus is that it has been reported in Africa, India, Brazil and Argentina. The isolates found in Alabama fields are most related to the ones in South America.

It’s difficult at this time, Jacobson said, to quantify yield losses due to the virus because they cannot be separated from abiotic and biotic factors. Only extreme cases can be easily quantified, making it impossible to make good estimates and to understand the range of loss that may be caused by the virus.

“Diagnostic methods are still cost-prohibitive, so many people have made assessments based on symptoms that are poorly classified and highly variable,” she said. “Incidence can be 100% even in areas where symptoms are not apparent. This has been observed in research trials. It is safe to say it is widespread.”

The virus is transmitted by a tiny insect called the cotton aphid, but replicated trials last year at Auburn and Georgia showed that foliar applications of insecticides did not reduce incidence of the virus.

“There are no other control methods that are supported by scientific data for reducing virus incidence or disease loss,” Jacobson said. “Field research for management of this virus began in 2019 when we learned that aphid management was not going to reduce virus transmission to the crop.”

There are several ongoing studies investigating the virus, including sentinel plots that will help researchers better understand the interactions between cotton variety and plant date on aphid populations, symptom severity and yield loss.

Another study is using aphid-exclusion cages to control the timing of infection to determine how crop age at the time of infection influences symptom severity and yield loss. Also, breeders are plant phenotyping for CLRDV infection and symptoms. Koebernick is screening nearly 1,500 cotton varieties at research sites in Tallassee and Fairhope looking for resistance to the virus.

“We are also conducting lab studies on the vector in an attempt to discover how long it takes to acquire and transmit the virus,” Jacobson said. “Field studies are focusing on overwintering/reservoir hosts in our cropping systems, including cover crops, weeds and regrowth on cotton stalks. In 2021, studies will try to address the impact of vegetation management on reducing CLRDV incidence.”

Auburn research team members, in addition to Koebernick, Jacobson, Lawrence and Hagan, include Kassie Conner, director of the Plant Diagnostic Lab; Kira Bowen, research epidemiologist; Ed Sikora, extension pathologist; Kathleen Martin, research vector biologist; Steve Brown, extension cotton specialist; and Amanda Schrerer, extension pathologist.

“This group of Auburn professors is working with research and extension scientists in more than 10 states to address this problem from a range of disciplines,” Koebernick said. “We are dedicated to understanding and solving this very complex problem. It is important to focus not only on long-term solutions, such as breeding for resistance, but also on developing management strategies for minimizing grower risk.”

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Ivey lights official state Christmas tree – ‘Merry Christmas to each of you’

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Friday took part in the traditional annual lighting of the official State of Alabama Christmas Tree located on the steps of the capitol.

“Let this be a year you do a little bit more, and give a little bit more,” said Governor Ivey to those assembled.

“Merry Christmas to each of you and to all families across Alabama,” she added.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed introduced Ivey at the ceremony and praised her “steady leadership” during a tumultuous year. Ivey later thanked him for his “dedicated leadership” of Alabama’s capital city.

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Around 200 citizens braved temperatures in the mid-40s to take in the lighting ceremony. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, masks were required for attendance at the ceremony.

“I’m incredibly grateful we’re able to safely keep this Christmas tradition alive,” Ivey said of the circumstances.

Alabama’s 2020 tree was donated by Robbins Taylor, Sr. of Lowndes County. The Eastern Red Cedar is 35 feet tall and required a crew from the Alabama Department of Transportation for its installation.

Major General David J. Francis, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, reminded the crowd in attendance that the Christmas standard “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was written from the perspective of a soldier forced to be away from home during World War II.

“This is a great reminder to remember all our service members, including the members of the greatest generation, the deployed members who will not be with their loved ones this holiday season, and the many who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Francis added.

“Christmas is a direct reminder of the hope we find in Jesus Christ,” mentioned the governor, who makes her Christian faith a mainstay of her public persona.

“Through the birth of a baby boy over two thousand years ago, we can find salvation, peace, and purpose in our lives,” Ivey continued.

“For many of us, including myself, that hope and faith has been what has guided us through these difficult challenges of 2020,” she told the public.

“May God continue to bless our state,” the governor concluded.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

7 hours ago

Palmer: Pelosi, Democrats prioritize pot legalization over COVID-19 relief

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) raised eyebrows this week by calling the House of Representatives into session and pushing through votes on legislation that would legalize marijuana and ban private ownership of exotic animals — known as the “Tiger King” bill.

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) released a scathing statement on Friday decrying Pelosi’s prioritization of these bills over much-needed COVID-19 relief for the American people.

“Speaker Pelosi and her clueless Democrat colleagues have proven over and over again that their top priorities do not include the hardworking Americans who need help to get through this pandemic,” Palmer said.

“This week, their prioritization of pot legalization while people are struggling is a stunning display of partisan politics and shows just how out of touch Democrats are with the American people,” he continued. “The timing of this bill not only reflects a disregard for the businesses that need further relief funding, but also for the rampant mental health and drug overdose issues exacerbated by the pandemic.”

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Entitled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), the marijuana legalization passed the House on Friday by a vote of 228-164. The only Alabama representative to support the measure was Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-07), a Democrat.

“Federal surveys show that since the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., depression and anxiety have been on the rise, with a concerning 75% of young adults now struggling with at least one mental health or drug problem,” Palmer explained. “The Center for Disease Control has also predicted that the U.S. could see 75,500 drug overdose deaths in 2020 if recent trends hold. Pelosi’s pot bill is even more unconscionable with these concerning facts in mind, especially as it ignores common sense safety measures around marijuana use, and also funnels taxpayer dollars to the marijuana industry and convicted drug dealers. In short, the bill would grant easier access to a gateway drug for already vulnerable and struggling people.”

The Central Alabama congressman concluded, “Furthermore, at a time when we should be helping people with employment opportunities, this bill would move us in the wrong direction. Companies with drug-free work environments, many of them also hazardous work environments, should not and will not employ people who might come to work drug-impaired, endangering themselves and others. I hope we don’t waste more opportunities next week for needed relief.”

Palmer, as the chair of the Republican Policy Committee, is the fifth-highest ranking member of the House GOP.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

WWII vet finishes fight with COVID-19, turns 104 the next day

A World War II veteran in Alabama was released from the hospital this week after a battle with the coronavirus. He turned 104 years old on his first day back home.

Major Wooten, the veteran in question, has become something of a minor celebrity in recent years for his joyful approach to life at his advanced age.

Wooten turned heads in recent years during his trip to Normandy to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Similar lines cheered his return to the airport and his exit from the hospital earlier this week.

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An ardent Alabama fan, Wooten again made headlines earlier this year when Nick Saban gave him a call after a health scare in the spring.

RELATED: Nick Saban surprises 103-year-old WWII veteran with Facetime call

Wooten is from Cullman and was cared for at Madison Hospital during his fight with COVID-19.

His exit from the hospital has garnered attention across the nation, with the Associated Press publishing a widely circulated story and ABC’s World News Tonight featuring Wooten in a segment.

Watch employees of Madison Hospital sing Happy Birthday to Major Wooten:

 

Major Wooten turns 104!

Mr. Major Lee Wooten won his battle with COVID-19 in time to be home to celebrate his 104th birthday. Mr. Wooten, who is a veteran and warmly known as “Pop Pop,” is described by his granddaughter as “their family’s treasure.” Please join us in wishing Mr. Wooten a very, happy birthday!

Posted by Madison Hospital on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

8 hours ago

Alabama receives over $50M from Dept. of Interior for energy produced in state

The State of Alabama is receiving $50.29 million from the federal government as a disbursement for energy that was produced in a federally owned area of the state.

Alabama’s funds come as part of a $1.81 billion payout to 34 states announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt on Friday.

The revenue sent to states Friday “was collected from oil, gas and mineral production on federal lands within the states’ borders and from offshore oil and gas tracts in federal waters adjacent to their shores,” according to a release from the department.

Virtually all of Alabama’s portion of the money was generated by offshore drilling, per the data available on an Interior Department web portal.

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Alabama’s payment was ninth highest in the nation. New Mexico took the top spot with $706.96 million followed by Wyoming, Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Mississippi.

American Indian Tribes received $1 billion as part of the process; 100% of the revenue from the energy generated on their lands.

“[T]hese disbursements also go right back to the states and Tribes where the energy was produced, providing critical funding for schools, public services, conservation improvements and infrastructure projects that create good-paying American jobs,” said Bernhardt on Friday.

The over $50 million announced as on its way to Alabama on Friday is the state’s total for fiscal year 2020 that ended September 30. It is the largest amount the state has received under the disbursement policy in the last decade.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

10 hours ago

Aderholt tests positive for COVID-19, is asymptomatic

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Friday announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 but is displaying no symptoms.

Aderholt originally went into quarantine on November 15 after learning he had been in close contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Right after completing his 10-day quarantine period, Aderholt’s wife, Caroline, tested positive and he once again went into quarantine.

Under new CDC guidelines that allow for a seven-day quarantine if followed by a negative test result, Aderholt on Thursday received a COVID-19 test to ascertain if he could exit quarantine and resume voting on the House floor.

“I fully expected to receive a negative test, because I have felt, and continue to feel fine, and have no symptoms. Unfortunately, I received word Friday morning that my test came back positive. After speaking with the Attending Physician for Congress, I will continue to isolate,” he advised in a statement.

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Aderholt also said that his wife has recovered from the virus after experiencing mild symptoms.

During his original quarantine, Aderholt had isolated himself away from his wife and the rest of his family.

The dean of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation, Aderholt is a senior member of the Committee on Appropriations, including serving as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn