Cornell scientists confirm plum pox in New York State stone fruit orchard

07/21/2006 02:00:00 AM

Cornell plant scientists, working with state and federal officials, have detected plum pox virus for the first time in New York state on trees from a Niagara County orchard. The discovery was made by the Cornell University Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic in early July and confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Plum pox is a viral disease of stone fruits, including plums,
peaches, apricots and nectarines.

"Specialists are currently surveying a 5-mile radius surrounding the initial detection to determine the extent of infestation," says Jessica Chittenden, communications director for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets in Albany. "The USDA will establish a cooperative eradication program with the state of New York."

The disease, spread by insects, is not harmful to humans. The plum pox strain identified in New York is identical to the D strain found in Canada and Pennsylvania, according to the USDA.
The D strain is less virulent than other strains, making it easier to contain. New York is only the second U.S. state where plum pox has been detected.

Cornell scientists identified the virus while performing laboratory tests for NYSDAM's national seven-year survey for the virus. The Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic works closely with state officials and the USDA National Plant Germplasm and Biotechnology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., providing testing services and identifying newly-introduced pathogens as they arrive.

Plum pox, also known as Sharka, has been devastating stone fruit crops in Europe since the early 1900s, when it was first reported in Bulgaria. It has since spread throughout Europe.

Recently, the disease has spread to the Americas, first being found in Chile in 1992, then in Adams County, Pa.,  orchards in 1999. It was also detected in orchards Ontario and Nova Scotia,
Canada, in 2000.

The disease remains localized in Niagara County, and state and federal official continue efforts to contain and eradicate it before it spreads to other parts of North American.

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