Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica Ziehm

June 10, 2010

State Commences Largest Survey Yet for Plum Pox Virus

250,000 Samples to be Taken to Help Eradicate Virus of Stone Fruit

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced the commencement of the State’s largest survey to combat Plum Pox Virus, a serious plant virus that infects stone fruit trees, reducing fruit yields and disfiguring fruit to the point that it becomes unmarketable.  New York is the only remaining state in the nation with Plum Pox. 

            “As the last state in the nation with this physically and economically debilitating virus, it is imperative that we have a full-court press on our survey efforts this summer, and that is exactly what we plan to do,” the Commissioner said.  “We are fortunate to be able to utilize $1.3 million in federal funding to ramp up our surveillance efforts and initiate the largest, most aggressive survey to date to knock this virus out of our orchards, ensuring healthy and marketable growing stock and a viable future for our stone fruit producers in New York State.”

            Over the course of this summer, 30 state field surveyors will be collecting over 227,000 samples both in the eradication zone, as well as outside of it to determine the exact location and severity.  The current eradication zone includes Wayne, Niagara and Orleans counties – all locations where the virus has previously been detected.  In addition, surveys will be taken in Chautauqua County and the Finger Lakes, popular growing regions of stone fruit in the State.  An additional 23,000 samples will be collected from homeowner trees by United States Department of Agriculture staff. 

            Field survey crews will collect leaves from Prunus species stone fruit, including peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums.  While cherries are also considered stone fruit, they are not naturally infected by the strain of Plum Pox found in North America.  Prunus species tree within five miles of a previous infestation will be sampled, and 25% of the trees will be sampled beyond the five-mile perimeter.  Collected leaves are kept chilled and shipped overnight to the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva.  Under the direction of Dr. Marc Fuchs, a plant pathologist at the Experiment Station, the submitted leaf samples will be ground and tested for the presence of Plum Pox Virus.  There is no visual way to reliably detect for this virus. 

            Jim Bittner, a partner of Singer Farms in Niagara County who grows approximately 100 acres of peaches, said, “This is a virus that could easily wipe out my peach production and have a devastating impact financially for my farm.  I appreciate the State taking an aggressive stance in surveying for Plum Pox as I can’t afford to lose my crop, nor my trees.”

            Plum Pox first appeared in the United States in Pennsylvania in October 1999.  Since its discovery, the virus has spread to New York, which was first detected in a Niagara County orchard in 2006.  The virus was also detected in Michigan in 2006; Michigan’s small infestation was eradicated.  Last summer, Pennsylvania successfully eradicated the virus, leaving New York as the only U.S. location with the virus; however, it is also present across the border in Ontario, Canada.

            While Plum Pox Virus does not pose any human health risks, the virus causes symptoms in the leaves and the fruit that reduces the quantity and quality of fruit.  The virus makes the trees more susceptible to other insects and diseases, which will ultimately kill them.  The virus also has the ability to infect wild native species and weed species.  Aphids 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 moderate distances from the initial source plant.

            The only method of eradication is to remove the infested plant material.  Orchard and nursery growers of Plum Pox impacted Prunus species can be compensated for their loss through an 85-15 federal-state cost share program. 

            New York produces an abundance of stone fruit with over 4,000 acres devoted to peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums and apricots.  New York is ranked 17th in the nation for peaches, producing 11 million pounds that were valued at $4.8 million in 2008.  Most of the State’s stone fruit production is around Lake Ontario, with fresh market fruit in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island.


PPV Survey 1
State field surveyors tag sampled trees.  Half of the tag is placed on the tree, while the other half is submitted with the leaf sample and sent to the lab.  Both halves of the tag include a matching identification number so the sample can be traced back to the host tree in the event the sample is positive for Plum Pox Virus. 

PPV Survey 2
Leaf samples and its identifying tag are submitted to the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva for testing. 

PPV Survey 3
State field survey crews place collected leaves directly into a cooler.  Leaves are kept chilled from the time they are collected in the field to the time they are tested in the lab in order to keep the samples viable. 

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