Michelle Heck Receives Grant to Study Devastating Crop Viruses

by | Sep 18, 2020

A medium shot of Michelle Heck in a field of crops, smiling and wearing a sun hat.

Michelle Heck recently won a USDA-NIFA grant to study luteovirid crop viruses.

Plant viruses in the Luteoviridae family devastate many crop varieties, including potatoes, small grains and cotton. The viruses are spread by sap-sucking aphids, which transmit the pathogen into a plant’s vasculature as they feed. Unfortunately, no adequate strategies exist to control these viruses.

BTI faculty member Michelle Heck and Joshua Chappie of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine recently received a $455,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to investigate an innovative method to combat the devastating luteovirid crop viruses. Heck is also a research molecular biologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service and adjunct associate professor of plant pathology at Cornell.

Researchers have a basic understanding of which virus proteins are required for transmission, but the details of how they interact with each other and with aphid proteins to facilitate transmission are lacking. This project focuses on understanding the molecular details of luteovirid transmission by aphids and developing a new tool to block virus transmission.

Read more in the Cornell Chronicle here.

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