While interviewing University of Georgia cotton specialist Dr. Jared Whitaker about cotton blue disease, he wrapped up by saying, “The more people we have working on this issue, the quicker we can figure it out.”
It occurred to me that this thought is a great endorsement for teamwork. And if you want to see teamwork in action, read the cover story, “Cotton Blue Disease,” on page 8. It’s a good example of how university personnel and industry came together to try to pin down what was causing mysterious symptoms on cotton plants in the Southeast.
Auburn University plant pathologist Dr. Kathy Lawrence says the journey began for her when she received a call from Drew Schrimsher with Agri-AFC on Aug. 29, 2017. He asked her to come to the field to see the cotton leaf deformation that looked a lot like herbicide damage but was not.
Lawrence immediately gathered the cotton team, and they set out to meet Schrimsher in southeast Alabama to look at the problem with fresh sets of eyes and to collect samples.
The Georgia pathologist says she thought the symptoms looked like a virus, so the group set out on a fact-finding mission to try to pinpoint it. They recruited University of Arizona’s Dr. Judith Brown, who specializes in virology and vector biology, to help with the identification. No spoilers here, but as you will see in the article, their teamwork paid off.
The University of Georgia cotton team was busy working on the issue as well. They spent many hours in the field inspecting ratooned cotton stalks and collecting weed samples. The collective effort was successful, and in the fall of 2018, Cotton leafroll dwarf virus was detected in cotton plants in 14 Georgia counties.
UGA virologist Dr. Sudeep Bag says the cotton team also detected the virus in henbit and perennial peanut in Georgia, and
Auburn University’s Dr. Kassie Conner found it in henbit from Alabama. Farmers, consultants and anyone else who regularly observe cotton fields also are encouraged to join in.
“If anyone sees strange symptoms in the field, call your county Extension agent or a member of the UGA cotton team,” Whitaker says.
A determined team of players in the agricultural world is hard to beat. It is the epitome of the inspirational quote: “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” If everything stays on track, teamwork will keep cotton blue disease at bay until a solution can be handed to U.S. cotton farmers.