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Agrobiodiversity / / Unraveling the genetic secrets of the insect vectors of crop virus diseases

Unraveling the genetic secrets of the insect vectors of crop virus diseases

Dr. Jeff Stuart teaching at International course on rice in Ibague, Colombia

Jeff Stuart, an insect molecular geneticist from Purdue University, USA, is bringing new ideas and techniques to CIAT’s efforts to combat crop pests and diseases in the tropics. Through a 6-month sabbatical leave at Center headquarters, he has begun an effort to develop a better understanding of key problems, while also exploring new opportunities for research collaboration.

“Looking at the genes of the insect vector that transmits the Rice hoja blanca virus (RHBV) is very important,” he said. “Sequencing the genome of this insect [Tagosodes orizicolus, which is commonly referred to in Latin America as Sogata] will help find ways to prevent future outbreaks.”

RHBV is transmitted only through the insect vector and cannot be transmitted by other means, making it very difficult to breed rice varieties with resistance to RHBV. Stuart aims to elucidate the genetic mechanism that enables the insect to carry and transmit the virus. Based on his strong background in insect genomics, he has introduced an approach for sequencing the insect.

“The literature suggests that a single gene controls the insect vector’s ability to transmit the virus, but other than that, there’s not much information available,” Stuart said. “We don’t know the size of the insect’s genome, but sequencing will provide some answers.”

Stuart is also interacting with CIAT’s Cassava Program on whiteflies, which pose a serious threat to the crop in Latin America and Africa. He hopes to examine the interactions between whiteflies and the cassava plant and discover the genes that enable the insect to survive on a number of important crops.

Stuart had this to say about his experience at CIAT: “Being able to carry out this research at CIAT has given me a very valuable opportunity to take advantage of the Center’s long history with cassava and rice. CIAT is very strong in crop improvement and strong in research on viruses. My role is in-between, focusing on insect vectors of virus diseases.”

As Stuart’s sabbatical leave comes to a close, he’s planning further collaboration between CIAT and Purdue. Clair Hershey, Cassava Program leader, and Joe Tohme, Agrobiodiversity Research Area director, have encouraged him to develop a model for better understanding the interaction between viruses and their insect vectors. Stuart also hopes to continue mapping the genomes of insect vectors and unraveling their genetic secrets.

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  • Reinhardt Howeler: Thanks, Keith. It was a pleasure writing this book as it brought back so many good memories of working with cassava, both in Latin America and in Asia. I was lucky that the Nippon Foundation suggested that I write this book and financed its publication. They also wanted a simplified version for farmers and extension workers that could be translated into various languages. The English version of this new book is now going to press in Hanoi, while the Khmer and Vietnamese translations are also ready for printing and the Thai and Chinese translations are still being worked on. In case you are interested in the English version, let me know. My email address is still And let me know where you are working now and what you are doing. Reinhardt
  • Peter de Vroome: Great invention! Could be very usefull in our research in fast detecting CFSD in our planting material. Is this kit already for sale? Peter de Vroome phytopathologist Centre for Agricultural Research in Suriname (C.E.L.O.S.)
  • German-funded research on climate-smart crop-livestock systemsSupport CIAT: […] Written by: Angela Fernando […]
  • Keith Fuglie: An impressive publication! Reinhardt Howeler has done an incredible job of summarizing lessons from nearly 30 years of work on cassava improvement in Asia. This very successful collaboration between CIAT and national research programs demonstrates what can be achieved through modest but persistent investment in agricultural research, even with a relatively neglected crop grown primarily by poor farm families in marginal environments.
  • Unraveling the genetic secrets of the insect ve...: […] Jeff Stuart, an insect molecular geneticist from Purdue University, USA, is bringing new ideas to unravel the genetic secrets of insect vectors of crop virus diseases (RT @CGIAR: News: Unraveling the genetic secrets of the insect vectors of crop virus...  […]
  • Kellan: i am also working on ppd on cassava. can you please help me find find a suitable protocol to analyse ppd.
  • ALI SALEM IBRAHIM: Hi we looking to start collaborations with ciat center if it,s possible.
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