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Farewell to Plum Pox Virus

Burning trees, Adams County, 1999 (photo by Howard Nuernberger)Summer would not be the same without sublime, juicy bites of fresh-picked peaches. The plum pox virus that threatened to wipe out Pennsylvania’s $25 million annual stone fruit crop—and countless scoops of Peachy Paterno ice cream—is gone.

Penn State played a critical role in giving the virus the boot.

Researchers and extension educators moved swiftly after plum pox was spotted on Adams County peach trees in October 1999. They sent science-based information out to growers and crunched the numbers so that growers could be compensated for losses. To halt the spread, 1,600 acres were pulled from peach tree production. Penn State research later showed how aphids spread plum pox, a key step in wiping out the disease.

Last October, Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture certified the state as plum pox free when it lifted the stone fruit quarantine on peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and cherries in four counties, bringing the battle to an official end and securing summer’s flavor.