While many students are passionate about the inner workings of plants, few get to work side-by-side with a professor and participate in groundbreaking research. LeAnn Hubbert, a plant science and agriculture graduate student at Missouri State University, has been working closely with Dr. Wenping Qiu, a research professor in the William H. Darr School of Agriculture at Missouri State University. Their current project focuses on the new strain of the Grapevine vein clearing virus (GVCV) which was recently discovered in a wild grapevine.
“The main symptom of the virus is the clearing of the veins of the plant, or making them look transparent,” said Hubbert. “It basically looks like a yellow highlighter on the veins themselves.”
Discovered by Qiu in in 2009, GVCV is the first DNA virus ever reported in grapevines. In order to ensure his findings were correct, Qiu and his colleagues mapped out all 7,753 base pairs of DNA in the genome and published their results in 2011. Graduate students like Hubbert took the project a step further and began studying a strain of the virus that was found in not a cultivated but wild grapevine (Vitis rupestris).
“I love plants so much, so getting to work in the field is the best,” said Hubbert. “I love getting to work in the lab and the greenhouse, too.”
Hubbert, originally from Bolivar, grew up around agriculture and knew it was something she wanted to pursue when she began her journey into higher education.
“My interest in agriculture started basically when I was born because I grew up on a small farm,” said Hubbert. “When I really started to get into plants, I was a sophomore and I joined the agronomy team, which is the science of crops and weeds.”
Qiu’s research group has tested seven grape varieties for 16 different types of viruses, and those vines that were found to be free of the diseases are sold to growers or nurseries. The group is also testing the resistance of a grapevine to viruses and hopes to see that these vines are resistant. If they are, they will then investigate the genetic basis for this resistance.