Grazing Animals Help Spread Plant Disease

Research conducted by scientists from Oregon State University, Cornell University, and the University of North Carolina have implicated grazing animals in the spread of plant disease. The scientists studied the relationship between plant-eating animals, including mule deer, rabbits, and feral pigs, and the prevalence of barley and cereal yellow dwarf plant viruses.

Grazing animals, such as mule deer, have been implicated in the spread of plant viruses. (Photo credit: USFWS)

Grazing animals, such as mule deer, have been implicated in the spread of plant viruses. (Photo credit: USFWS)

The research showed that in areas where grazing animals were blocked from test plots, plant viruses occurred at a rate of about 5 percent. In test plots where the animals were allowed to graze, plant disease occurred at a rate of about 18 percent–a nearly 4-fold increase.

The grazing animals do not themselves actually spread the plant diseases. Instead, a byproduct of their grazing is an increase in the types of grasses preferred by insects such as aphids. The aphids are in turn directly responsible for the transmission of plant viruses from one area to another. The results of this study are important because they help to illustrate the complicated relationships that occur within ecosystems. While it is commonly thought that there is a tight connection between a disease and its host, this research shows that within ecosystems, such host-disease relationships may become tangled in a complex food web involving several different consumers.

The results of the scientists’ research was published in the December 29, 2008 issue of the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Comments

  1. this could cause many problems in the future as well. We have to control this disease.

  2. this could be a problem i time if we dont do anything about it

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