Viruses in agricultural tile drainage and their persistence in natural aquatic reservoirs

**Not yet funded, but we really want to look at this!**

Viruses in agricultural settings are enormously diverse, and represent important pathogens of plant and animal species that can lead to economic losses in affected crops and livestock. Viruses also play crucial roles in agricultural soils, where they release organic matter from infected microorganisms and support productivity of uninfected cells. Despite a growing body of knowledge about their significance in agricultural settings, the fates of viruses from agricultural practice in the environment is poorly constrained. While liberated/shed viruses of plants and animals experience variable decay in typical environmental settings, they may persist in environmental compartments where they may transmit to new hosts. Viruses of putative terrestrial origin may be found in freshwater lakes, where their presence corresponds to precipitation, inferring that they were transported by runoff. However, there remain key questions about the diversity of these viruses and their fares in natural watercourses. Climate change is predicted to result in higher precipitation and more frequent episodic (storm) rainfall events for New York agriculture. Hence, there is a strong need to understand the sources and fates of viruses that originate from agricultural practice, and to learn best practices for remediation of viral pollutants as greater precipitation will likely lead to enhanced delivery of these viruses into natural environments.

We are interested in addressing three hypotheses: H1) viruses of agricultural significance are present in tile drainage from farmland, and their composition reflects what is being farmed, fertilizer application, and precipitation patterns; H2) viruses of agricultural crops and livestock persist in waterways after discharge, and their decay is influenced by stream flow and turbidity; and H3) improved viral removal from tile drainage runoff may occur by exposure to sunlight and passage through riparian zone plants prior to creek discharge. This work would inform RNA viral diversity within tile drainage and natural creek waters and windrow species, constrain their dynamics over time at the boundary of farmed and natural habitats, and provide new information about how soil parameters affect viral stability in agricultural fields. Finally, this work would deliver improved strategies for reducing agricultural viral loads to freshwater ecosystems through discharge site practice.