US (TX): Plant center to double lab's pathogen fighting

The new laboratory for the Arkansas Clean Plant Center for Berries at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station will double the center's testing and cleaning capacity, as the center aims to assure that nurseries and growers have plants free from harmful pathogens.

With expanded capabilities, the center will be able to better serve producers in Arkansas and nationally, and it's "a great teaching tool for students," said Ken Korth, head of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Through the center's disease diagnostics, healthier plants are created, which ultimately "increases food production and food security."

The center provides testing and clean-up necessary for certification of nurseries providing berry planting stock and for export, according to Ioannis Tzanetakis, the center's director since its inception in 2011 and a professor of plant virology for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The goal is to "eliminate systemic pathogens of concern for berry crop plants."

A "clean plant" is one that's been tested for and found free of economically important and/or destructive plant viruses and virus-like organisms and maintained under controlled conditions to prevent reinfection, according to the National Clean Plant Network, which was created to protect U.S. specialty crops -- berries are one of seven specialty crops covered by the National Clean Plant Network -- from the spread of deleterious diseases. The plants "are then propagated in recognized certification programs."

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