A University of Tulsa plant virologist’s 2015 wheat virus research on the dominant strains affecting Oklahoma fields has been published in a 2017 issue of Plant Disease journal. The findings also indicate the presence of two new viruses infecting Oklahoma wheat. Associate Professor of Biological Science Akhtar Ali reported 15 wheat viruses after surveying commercial wheat fields in 33 Oklahoma counties. The project aimed to conduct a comprehensive assessment of all virus threats.
Ali specializes in virus research and similar diseases in the TU Department of Biological Science. He works closely with Oklahoma wheat producers to identify crop threats and prevent outbreaks. Wheat is a leading agricultural market that generates more than $600 million statewide, but annual yields are threatened by viruses often detected or treated after crop damage is evident.
Ali’s surveys discovered five primary wheat viruses: Barley mild mosaic virus, Wheat streak mosaic virus, Barley yellow dwarf virus-PAV, Barley yellow dwarf virus-RPV and High plains virus. His research also included the weeds of adjoining wheat fields and showed the vegetation acts as a reservoir for viruses such as Johnson grass, cheat grass and ryegrass. Ali detected low levels of two new viruses — Maize chlorotic motile virus and Maize dwarf mosaic virus.
The research was published in Plant Disease by Ali and graduate student Dulanjani Wijayasekara. According to Ali, the new virus information will help Oklahoma extension specialists and producers protect wheat crops and prevent economic loss. The project was sponsored by a Southern Integrated Pest Management Center enhancement grant.