Pests and Diseases, Research, Studies/Reports

US: Insect, virus harangue potato industry, stymie scientists

A green peach aphid (Myzus persicae), a scourge of peaches and a transporter of potato plant viruses.On the flip side of farmers worrying about pests are entomologists, who earn a living understanding odd creatures such as aphids, a huge family of self-cloning, virus-spreading insects. To Jim Dwyer, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension specialist in Presque Isle, “aphids are really fascinating.” The tiny, lice-sized bugs spend their short lives mostly as populations of females, cloning themselves during the summer, feeding on plants and having males born in the fall. With pesticides, fungicides, crop rotations and other treatments, aphids and the diseases they transmit have been manageable, ebbing and flowing problems for Maine’s potato industry. But in some respects, the insects and at least one virus — potato virus Y — are ahead of the game, as Dwyer and other researchers are finding. More

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