Wheat virus crosses over, harms native grasses

In the current issue of the Journal of Ecology, researchers from MSU, University of Kansas and University of Virginia show that farmers and scientists need to think about how best to protect native plants from diseases emanating from crops.

January 19, 2017 - Author: Layne Cameron

Switchgrass

In the current issue of the Journal of Ecology, researchers from Michigan State University, University of Kansas and University of Virginia show that farmers and scientists need to think about how best to protect native plants from diseases emanating from crops.

“Crop fields were once considered tiny islands in a sea of wild vegetation, so farmers and scientists focused on protecting crops from wild pathogens,” said Carolyn Malmstrom, MSU plant biologist and co-lead author of the study. “Now, around the world, the situation has reversed, and diseases from agricultural fields affect not only crops, but also substantially harm native plants, such as switchgrass.”

The findings were based on a multi-year field study in Kansas. There, like in much of the Midwest, plains of native grasses have been transformed to fields of wheat or other cereal crops. Now, it’s the patches of grasses that are the islands in an ocean of crops.

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