ARS has an
agreement with Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., to develop a tool for
identifying corn and soybean viruses worldwide. Fine pins press the green viral
extract into seeds. Click the image for more information about
USDA, Pioneer Hi-Bred to Automate Screening for
Crops' Viral Resistance By
Don Comis June
A new instrument that helps breeders screen for resistance to
important viral diseases of corn and soybean is being refined and automated in
a cooperative research effort by the Agricultural Research Service and
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., of
Former ARS scientist
Louie developed the technique, called Vascular Puncture Inoculation (VPI).
He's a retired ARS plant pathologist who continues to work as a research
collaborator at the ARS
and Soybean Research Unit in Wooster, Ohio. He and ARS technician
Abt have been working with the technique since 1991.
The ARS unit at Wooster, led by
Gingery, together with Ohio State
University colleagues at the Ohio Agricultural Research and
Development Center campus where the unit is located, specialize in
detecting and preventing viral attacks on corn and soybeans.
The team receives samples of infected corn leaves from around the
world and soybean leaves from throughout the region for viral identification.
Most samples are too small to do much more than a few tests. With VPI, the team
can produce enough infected plants to more fully characterize the virus, and
all without even knowing which insect transmits the virus in nature.
This "artificial insect" technique uses an instrument to infect plant
seeds with a virus, much as an insect does when it bites into a leaf. The
instrument's tiny vibrating pins "bite" water-softened seeds to introduce a
liquid viral extract previously prepared by grinding infected leaves. Louie is
working to automate the instrument so that it can quickly infect entire trays
A microprocessor-controlled advanced prototype uses pins attached to a
stereo speaker-like component to produce vibrations of controlled frequency and
With VPI, they have been able to transfer all major corn viruses into
kernels of corn and have also transferred viruses into soybean seeds, wheat
kernels, and rice grains. Then they grow infected plants from the seeds.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.