Current: The consequences of virus yellow strain variation on future virus resistant or tolerant sugar beet

Timescale: 2020 -2024
Project Lead: Suzannah Cobb - PhD study (Supervisors: Prof Tamas Dalmay & Prof Mark Stevens)
Project Sponsor: UEA, KWS, TMAF and BBRO

Project Summary

Main Objectives

The virus yellows complex is a major threat to the UK sugar beet industry, causing yield losses of up to 47%. This risk has been heightened by the recent loss of neonicotinoid seed treatments and the lack of alternative control strategies.  Although European sugar beet seed companies are developing new varieties and have had partial success in breeding for resistance/tolerance to this complex of viruses, the understanding of the durability of these resistance mechanisms, and the diversity of virus strains that may challenge these future varieties in the field is limited. This proposed research project, via a PhD studentship with the University of East Anglia, aims to categorise the potential biological and molecular strain variability of the virus yellows complex present in the UK and elucidate the strength of current resistant/tolerant sugar beet lines to these viruses, either individually or in combination to mimic commercial reality.


  1. Categorise the biological and molecular variability of UK virus yellows strains.
  2. Understand the mechanics of the resistance genes in breeding material and future virus yellows resistant or tolerant varieties.
  3. Study the consequences of virus-virus interactions on future varieties.
  4. Study the effect of unrelated virus resistance genes on virus yellows epidemiology

Latest Report

Outcomes / Key Message For Growers And Industry

Under review
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We are set up jointly by British Sugar plc and the National Farmers' Union.

British Sugar
National Farmers' Union