Plant viruses cause major disease epidemics in important food crops and are a major threat to food security in many countries particularly in the developing world. The predicted warming of the climate caused by environmental change is expected to increase the abundance and geographic range of many insects that spread viruses which in turn may increase the occurrence of virus diseases. Potato is the third largest food crop in the world. In Scotland, last year, around about 1.3 million tonnes were produced with 76,000 tonnes of seed potatoes exported to over 30 countries (not including to EU countries). Pests and diseases cause major economic losses by decreased tuber yield and quality, and rejection of exports.
Viruses are parasites that must take over the host cell’s functions to replicate and produce more virus particles. My research focuses on potato viruses and the role and function of virus coded proteins in disease processes, investigating mechanisms of host susceptibility and resistance. A particular focus is the durability of host resistance under abiotic stresses and developmental stage. This work will identify essential host molecules needed for replication and spread and a better understanding of defence processes. The practical outputs of this work will be to inform more effective methods of disease control. Other research in the lab concerns working with collaborators in Kenya and Malawi to improve seed potato production systems and on virus-host interactions with Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hanghzhou, Zhejiang, P.R. China.
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