Barley Yellow Dwarf: It doesn’t just end with wheat

by Joey Conway

Barley yellow dwarf is a disease that affects a vast range of crops in the world. The Barley yellow dwarf virus or BYDV is a pathogen that attacks barley, oats. wheat, corn, and rice. These crop species serve as some of the biggest agricultural contributors to the economy and could industries that use these crops for further refining and manufacturing.

The BYDV is a single-stranded RNA virus that is carried by aphids.  Aphids transmit the virus as they feed on feed on plant leaves. As soon as the virus enters the plant the virus will replicate rapidly. The virus  will show its symptoms very quickly in the from of yellowing or reddening of leaves. The virus will then attack the plant’s growth and hinder yield dramatically.

So what does this mean and what could be the implications? Well to start it would help to look at how far reaching these crops are. To simply look at wheat and its single great influence on our nation, first consider that it is grown in almost every state and the US alone producing over 50 million tons of it each year. Wheat can be seen as the backbone of life as it is seen that 40-60% of calories in an average diet.  Wheat is rich in carbohydrates, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium.

Now lets take into account how devastating it could be if this disease spread to other crops like rice, oats, and corn. In many less developed countries where wheat is an even larger percentage of someone’s diet. Countries like India and China would suffer greatly as their economy is largely based on rice and wheat development and majority of meals in the countries have a base of rice. This disease could obviously cripple the world, it is a good thing that there is many plant pathologists the world to make sure that these diseases do not take over.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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