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Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus: TSWV of Peanut

TSWV of Peanut

"The Novel formerly known as "Vectored by Thrips"
(aka "Quite a Year for Plums")

Tomato spotted wilt virus and the thrips that vector it have had tremendous impact on agriculture in the Southeastern U.S., as well as the rest of the world. Now, TSWV is a major character in the new novel by South Georgia teacher, gardener, poultry enthusiast, miner of irony, banjo player, NPR commentator and writer, Bailey White. Ms. White's book, "Quite a Year for Plums," originally was titled "Vectored by Thrips," and uses this amazing pathosystem extensively in its wonderfully humorous meanderings down the highways and dirt roads, through the swamps, camellia gardens, heartbreaks, research plots, and peanut fields of South Georgia.

Plant Pathologist, Dr. Roger Meadows is a fictitious character. He is, nonetheless, a real person, in the same sense that Mayberry is a real place. I know him well, and he is a friend of mine, just as Barney Fife, Jo Beth Siddons and Joe Leaphorn are friends of mine. Dr. Meadows travels the highways and back roads and trudges the peanut fields of South Georgia, doing research on, among other things, thrips and tomato spotted wilt virus on peanuts. He works hard, both in his field research and in his extension education programs. Dr. Meadows represents the heart of S.W.E.A.T., and works hard as part of an interdisciplinary team that operates on the premise that it is amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit. Dr. Meadows knows full well how it feels to spend the day "stooped in the peanut field, steeped in sweat." He has learned, as have the rest of us who have spent many a July day in Attapulgus placing colored flags beside peanut plants with tomato spotted wilt virus, that putting a plastic bag filled with crushed ice in your hat can help make that hot tedious field work bearable. Dr. Meadows is not a stickler for titles and prefixes and prefers to be called "Roger," even though he had come back from that university in North Carolina, bald headed and with a Ph.D. He is a stickler, however, for the correct spelling and pronunciation of "Thrips." "Thrips" is both singular and plural. There is no such thing as a "thrip." I'll bet that analysis of his handwriting would come back "good natured, strong, fleet and wise."

We are introduced to Roger in the first chapter of the brand new Bailey White book, "Quite a Year for Plums." In that first chapter, Roger's picture appears on the cover of "Agrisearch." Chances are that Sigrid Sanders did the story on him, and Chuck Moore took his picture. They were originally going to photograph Red Wattle hogs in Sam Martin's automatic feeder pens, but they couldn't get the doors to open.... Originally, the book was to have been titled "Vectored by Thrips" (Thrips with an "s") and I think should have remained that. There is still a chapter of the book with that title, and I think we should refer to the book as "The Book Formerly Known as Vectored by Thrips," although I fear that you'll have to use "Quite a Year for Plums" to find it at the bookstore or the library. Roger plays the banjo and grows roses and has his Grandmother's night blooming cereus on his back porch.

"The Book Formerly Known as Vectored by Thrips" by Bailey White, and published by Knopf, has references to The University of Georgia and "Agrisearch" and plant pathology and spotted wilt and thrips and roses and camellias, so it is a lot of fun for those of us who are affiliated with those institutions, but it is about much much more than Roger and plant pathology and the Irish Potato Famine and General Electric Fans from 1914.... It is about life and friends and heartbreak and the humor of every day irony, and "the anvil of experience" and old breeds of chickens and ornithology and falling in love with someone you've never met at the dumpster.... you just like the way she throws things away. Speaking of experience.... you have not lived until you've fished a dead broad headed skink out of the peanut oil that you fried fish in the night before.... That's about all I'll say about the book right now, except to say that it is a wonderful piece that is guaranteed to bring a chuckle and warm your heart. This is Bailey White's first novel, and one of the first novels about a plant pathologist that I know of anywhere. I think it is pretty safe to say that it is THE first novel that deals with tospoviruses. In fact, for many of the readers, I will bet this will be the first realization that there actually is such a "field" as Plant Pathology. In the words of Barney Fife, "This is BIG! REAL BIG! AW BIG AIN'T THE WORD FOR IT! BIG!" Shazaam!

This batch of "connected stories" takes you on a delightful and... and... and....educational journey through the swamps, camellia gardens, peanut fields, public garbage dumpsters and irony mines of South Georgia. It is as fragrant as the Madame Isaac Pierre, tasty as a Vidalia Onion sandwich, and as alive and spry as banjo music played with all five fingers. You'll feel the heat of the Georgia sun, and you'll learn to spell "Attapulgus," "oscillate" and "thrips with an s." You should be warned that after reading this book, you undoubtedly will be hopelessly and incurably addicted to Vidalia Onion sandwiches, and will have uncontrollable urges to raise your very own (and nobody elst-es) Dominecker (sic) chickens. What's more, never again will you be able to ignore a public dumpster when you pass one by.