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It doesn’t appear the cotton virus is causing economic damage to one of the region’s top row crops, but nobody in the industry is assuming it won’t.

Brad Haire, Executive Editor

September 23, 2019

A new virus has grabbed the attention of Southeast cotton growers and scientists. At this time, it doesn’t appear the disease is causing economic damage to one of the region’s top row crops, but nobody in the industry is assuming it won’t.

The cotton leaf roll dwarf virus, CLRDV, was first detected in Alabama in 2017 and then in more than a dozen Georgia counties last year, and it is figured to be in most Georgia cotton-growing counties this year, said Dr. Jared Whitaker, University of Georgia cotton agronomist, during an interview with Southeast Farm Press at the annual UGA Cotton and Peanut Research Field Day Sept. 4 in Tifton, Ga.

The virus is also found in Florida and South Carolina cotton.

“We have a virus in our cotton crop in Georgia. We had it last year. We've got it this year. It's pretty widespread throughout the state. If we went in almost any cotton field, we could find a plant that had the virus, but that doesn't mean we have an issue with it in regards to yield at this point. I don't think there's any field in Georgia that is suffering economic loss from this virus or the disease that comes from it,” Whitaker said.

The virus is spread by aphids, a common insect in Georgia fields, and the virus has been confirmed in weeds such as henbit and in perennial peanuts. The disease is common in Brazil, where Brazilian cotton growers use resistant varieties to help manage it.

Whitaker said UGA has a team studying the disease in the state now, which includes Sudeep Bag, a crop virologist along, cotton breeder Peng Chee, agronomist Mark Freeman, plant pathologist Bob Kemerait, and entomologist Phillip Roberts.

“We're learning more about it. I think it's something that farmers should pay attention to. If I was growing cotton in Georgia, I'd grow it the same way I did this year as I did last year. There's not much I would do differently with regards to the virus. Other than that, I'd stay tuned. We're learning more every day. And, as we progress through this season, I think we'll have a better handle on it than we did last year,” he said.

The UGA Cotton Team is directing research efforts to understand the disease, including a $75,000 grant funded by the Georgia Cotton Commission and Cotton Incorporated to study the epidemiology of the disease.

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