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Karen Eggert (202) 690-4755
Jerry Redding (202) 720-4623
Jessica Chittenden (518) 457-3136

USDA LABORATORY CONFIRMS PLUM POX VIRUS IN NEW YORK

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2006--The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Plant Germplasm and Biotechnology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., today confirmed the presence of the plum pox virus (PPV) on plum tree leaf samples collected by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) officials.

As part of a seven-year survey for the virus, state and federal agriculture officials collected 22 leaf samples from a 108-tree orchard located in Niagara County, N.Y.--within five miles of plum pox eradication zones in Canada. The samples were sent to Cornell University’s diagnostic laboratory for testing, where researchers obtained positive results.

The virus was first detected in Canada back in 2000. The plum pox strain identified in New York is identical to the D strain of the virus found in both Canada and Pennsylvania. The D strain of the virus is less virulent than other strains, making it easier to contain.

NYSDAM’s early discovery of PPV is credited to the department’s active surveys for plant pests and diseases. Survey specialists are currently surveying a 5-mile radius surrounding the initial detection to determine the extent of infestation. USDA will establish a cooperative eradication program with the state of New York. The program will include conducting extensive detection and delimiting surveys, establishing quarantine areas where infestations are found, and the removal of infested orchards and other host material within a buffer area of any infestation.

Plum Pox is a viral disease of stone fruit species that first appeared in the United States in Pennsylvania in October 1999. The plant virus does not pose any human health risks. Since the discovery, agriculture officials there have successfully contained its spread. New York is only the second state where plum pox has been detected.

PPV is the cause of a serious plant disease, affecting a number of species, including peach, nectarine, apricot and plum. Several aphid species can serve as carriers of the virus. The virus stays viable in the aphid’s mouthparts for a period of approximately one hour and most aphids can generally transmit infection several hundred meters from the initial source plant.

The finding of plum pox will not hinder the production or harvest of stone fruit in Niagara County this year.

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