University of Idaho is conducting research projects on two seed potato viruses

Coronavirus might be the focus right now for humans, but seed potato farmers are watching a couple of viruses on their own.

Entomologists from the University of Idaho are leading ten state research projects focused on two viruses that can devastate seed potato farmers.

Professor and project leader, Alexander Karasev says that one of their targets is potato mop-top virus, which has been found in six states.

According to Karasev, “The second virus is potato virus Y. It can lead to a downgrade of seed potato loads, but also, a potato [infected with potato virus Y] may induce a disease which is called potato tuber necrotic ringspot disease, making fresh market tubers completely unusable.”

He added that in the short-term, researchers are looking to provide recommendations and tools to give growers a chance to control the virus.

“We also have a long-term component in this proposal through breeding, trying to develop potato cultivars that are resistant to both viruses,” he notes. “We also have a component that is economical and social in trying to educate growers on the availability of different tools that can mitigate this problem.”

According to a University of Idaho study, potato virus Y costs the “Gem State” roughly $34 million dollars in annual losses.