Saturday, January 9, 2016


For today's post I thought I'd share some of the work that I do as a virologist and one of the odd problems I'm having. Part of what I'm doing is looking at how advanced breeding lines of hard red winter wheat react to yellow dwarf viruses under field conditions and movement of the virus into the field over time. There are two different sets of lines that I am looking at. One set is the advanced breeding lines that we want to screen this year and some lines from the previous year. Last years' lines are replicated at two locations whereas the lines being screened this year are at a single location. The location where almost all of my lines are at are doing very nicely and I've detected virus in the field already. However, with last year's lines at the second location, I'm having an issue: geese. There has been a lot of rain the last few months at the second location and a pond has formed. 

This should be a field...

When I went out to the field to collect samples, I noticed that half of the field looked almost like it had been mowed.

What happened to my plots?

Once I inspected the plots closer, I noticed some signs as to who the culprits were.

Very suspicious... 
I'm seeing a pattern here

More evidence

The evidence is mounting.

Signs of consumption and fertilization of the wheat

So I had my answer, geese migrating south have been using the field as a rest stop. Since it's been warmer, the wheat is still growing and green. They had water to play in and a nice bunch of wheat to eat. 
All the dark spots on the water in the first picture are geese.

The noise out there was deafening. I called my advisor to let her know that we had been grazed and she thought I was on the road in town since it was so loud (they were honking like crazy). So pretty much I wasn't able to collect at the second location because geese ate half the plots.
Sometimes, things don't go right in scientific experimentation. This isn't a new revelation as there are twitter pages and numerous articles dedicated to the topic. I've just never had anything like this happen to me. 

Behold, the destroyer of wheat. Photo credit: Manucampa