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Faculty Focus

Five Questions for Marc Fuchs

Associate Professor Marc FuchsMarc Fuchs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Prior to joining the Cornell faculty in 2004, he was at the Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique in Colmar, France. Marc’s research and extension program focuses on viruses and virus diseases of fruit and vegetable crops. The primary goals of this work are to determine the genetic variability of virus populations for advancing our understanding of virus spread, and to study interactions between viruses, insect vectors, and plant hosts with the aims of developing robust detection methodologies and implementing innovative approaches for disease management. The extension component of Marc’s program focuses on the characterization of emerging viruses and the dissemination of information on the biology and ecology of viral diseases to stakeholders.

What inspired you to work with grapes or economics?
I grew up in the middle of the grape growing region of Alsace in France where my family owns a small vineyard.  Contributing to the caring of the family vineyard brings back found memories such as riding a workhorse to the vineyard with my grandpa, collecting the pruning wood and disposing of it onsite by burning, biking 5-miles to get to the vineyard early morning for trimming and hedging, celebrating harvest by sharing a delicious traditional meal with friends and family, enjoying fresh grape juice sampled on the wooden press, and savoring fermenting fruit juice.  Talking about sweet fermenting juice, I believe that the local industry should be more aggressive at considering this divine beverage for new marketing opportunities.  I am sure the experience would be rewarding.

What are the major challenges in your field?
It is my opinion that multidisciplinary approaches are the essence of successful research on grapevine viruses, requiring the expertise of entomologists, viticulturists, economists and extension educators, among other fields.  I feel very fortunate to have excellent colleagues to collaborate with and a thriving grape industry to interact with.  Nonetheless, such collaborative approaches are challenged by limited and sporadic funding that favor short-term research projects, while long-term investments would be ideal for a perennial crop like grape, and by an ever-increasing societal demand for more sustainable disease management strategies.  However, these challenges are less strenuous because successive generations of graduate students are interested in research on grapevine viruses and the local industry continues to be supportive.

What projects are going on in your lab right now?
My program is working on viruses associated with leafroll, red blotch and decline diseases.  We are interested on the relationship between viruses, their insect vectors, and grapes.  For leafroll, we are evaluating management options based on roguing in combination or not with insecticide (contact and systemic) applications, and exploring options to develop grapevines with resistance to the virus and mealybug vector.  For red blotch, we are studying the biology and ecology of the disease with a special emphasis on virus transmission and epidemiology.  For decline, we are determining key elements of the virus that are crucial for pathogenicity and also investigate how rootstocks with engineered resistance could be used for management.  The ultimate goal of my research program is to develop and implement sustainable and economically attractive disease management strategies.  Along this vein, I am actively involved in the reinstatement of a certification program in New York in conjunction with other colleagues at NYSAES, local nurseries and the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

How will your research benefit the grape industry?
It is anticipated that our recent efforts to resurrect a certification program in New York will provide the grape industry with a unique opportunity to select high quality planting material derived from mother vines that are regularly tested for detrimental viruses and shown to be clean.  Establishing new vineyards with clean planting material will boost yields, augment the production of high quality fruits, expand the productive lifespan of vineyards and increase their profitability because growers will deal less with all the uncertainties associated with viruses.

What is your favorite part of your job?
The best part of my job is interacting one-on-one with growers and vineyard managers because my visits and discussions always result in very enticing educational experiences for me.  Another gratifying part of my job is to witness sparkles in the eyes of undergraduate and graduate students when they make a discovery.