Foundation Award for Research
Environmental Plant Science and Natural Resources
William H. Darr College of Agriculture
I. Focus of Research
1. Basic research
Viruses use DNA or RNA as genetic elements to reproduce rapidly in hosts. In 2010, we found the first DNA virus in grapevine, grapevine vein clearing virus (GVCV). This virus causes a debilitating disease in grape cultivars. We have spent years finding sources of the virus and routes of spreading the virus. Now we know GVCV is prevalent in native wild plants and transmitted by grape aphids. We continue to trace the track of GVCV by monitoring the virus in its moving carrier-grape aphids. We are building a genetic lineage of GVCV variants and hope to find main strains affecting vineyards. We are using molecular tools to discover the genetic elements that help GVCV replicate and adapt. The research is to help grape growers implement effective strategies to mitigate GVCV’s adverse impact on vineyards.
We also found that Norton grapevine is resistant to GVCV. We are investigating if Norton is resistant to other viruses and searching for resistance genes. These virus-resistant genes can be introduced into elite grape cultivars for fighting against viruses.
2. Applied research
We have made wine from a new variety, ‘NC6’. The ‘NC6’ is selected from a population of the 2015 Norton-Cabernet Sauvignon cross after multiple-year evaluation. We are currently evaluating another new variety. We established a foundation vineyard for producing virus-tested clean grapevines. We are developing the most advanced and sensitive high-throughput methods to detect viruses.
II. Major Projects
- Study epidemics and ecology of grapevine vein clearing virus in native habitats and vineyards: 2004-current
- Assess and select new varieties from the 2015 Norton-Cabernet Sauvignon cross: 2005-current.
- Produce and promote virus-tested clean grapevines for sustainable growth of the Midwest grape and wine industries: 2008-current
- Investigate genetic mechanisms of Norton’s resistance to viruses: 2018-current
- A model plant for functional analysis of grapevine genes has been established: completed
- The whole genome of Norton grape has been sequenced: completed
III. Future Directions of Research
- Continue unveiling intricate relationships among virus-bearing grape aphids, native wild plants and cultivated grapes in an agro-ecosystem unique to the heartland of US.
- Analyze functions of viral genes and proteins by using an infectious GVCV clone.
- Investigate genetic mechanisms underlying Norton grape’s resistance to viruses.
- Assess and select two new grape varieties for commercial production.
IV. Topics related to your research and of interest to the broad University Community, for which you are available for presentations and/or consultations.
Potential topics for presentation
- Living with viruses
- Various vaccines against new coronavirus
- Viruses: infectious, contagious, ferocious and adaptive
- A fascinating grape virus in wild Midwest
- New grape variety and new wine: a special wine tasting event
- Scientific Integrity
- Pursuing a research career: purpose and passion
- Training graduate students with critical thinking and scientific integrity
- Writing and publishing a scientific paper
- Building your credentials and portfolio