USDA Grants $3.2 Million Toward Whitefly Research

Karla Arboleda Georgia, Research, Top Posts, Vegetables

By Karla Arboleda

After years of growers experiencing problems with whiteflies in vegetable crops, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will fund $3.2 million toward whitefly research.

Whiteflies infest fall cucurbits.

The grant will fund research at the University of Georgia (UGA), Fort Valley State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service in South Carolina. Bhabesh Dutta, a vegetable Extension pathologist at UGA-Tifton, shared some statistics on previous crop damage originating from whiteflies.

“This grant is funded by USDA to do research in this region as whitefly and whitefly-transmitted virus complex has been a huge problem in fall vegetable production,” Dutta said. “In Georgia, we lost nearly 60 to 80 percent of our (fall-grown) snap bean crops because of the whitefly-transmitted viral diseases.”

Researchers will focus specifically on vegetable systems and find long-term sustainable solutions to manage whiteflies and whitefly-transmitted virus complexes. There are three whitefly-transmitted viral pathogens, which are known to reduce the quality of vegetable crops, specifically cucurbits: cucurbit leaf crumple virus, cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus and sida golden mosaic virus. The USDA-funded project is expected to cover these key points:

  • Host plant resistance
  • Ecology, biocontrol and cultural practices
  • Vector-virus complex transmission dynamics
  • Use of molecular tools and biotechnology in host plant resistance and disease management
  • Insecticide resistance

“My role in this project involves finding resistance to the whitefly-transmitted virus complex in snap bean germplasms, advanced breeding lines and conducting research to find host-plant resistance,” Dutta said. “(The) severity of this issue led us to team up with scientists from different disciplines and collaborate to find a long-term sustainable solution.”

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