CBS 13's April Hettinger digs into how this will affect our critical winter lettuce season
TACNA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - In today's Home Grown, trials are being done to see if there is a way to prevent a crop from catching a virus that is new to Yuma County.
The impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV) that freshly sprouted in Yuma, affected about 40 fields this past spring. Now, researchers like Dr. Stephanie Slinski are trying to see if the pest can survive in summer heat.
"We've been collecting weeds in Tacna and in some other areas and we're just looking to see if the virus can persist in the growing over the summer. So, it needs a host," explained Dr. Slinski with the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture (YCEDA).
INSV is transmitted by an insect called thrip that sucks the nutrients out of the lettuce and carries the virus, according to extension specialist Dr. John Palumbo with YCEDA.
"We have found it on certain weeds, so we know that it can exist during this off-season between produce season or to maybe bridge it from the spring until the upcoming fall season," Dr. Palumbo stated.
So the answer is yes, it can linger in the summer.
Scientists are looking into non-chemical treatments, but there are other ways to maintain the virus.
"If we know it's persisting over the summer, what do you do? So, you manage the weeds, you manage the thrips and then there's going to be less of a chance that you're going to have an early infection," Dr. Slinski said. "You might still get INSV, but it might come in later."
Researchers will also conduct field trials during the peak of lettuce season.
Right now, there are some speculations that it was brought to Yuma through transplants, but how did growers go all these years without a sign of INSV in sight?
"It's just the nature of the business. Sometimes things sneak in," Dr. Palumbo said. "It's kind of like COVID, right? We never had it before and all the sudden here it is, you know. It's no different in agriculture."
Researchers will present the sampling results at the Desert INSV Workshop happening August 11.
13 On Your Side's April Hettinger presents this exclusive research tonight on CBS 13.