Viruses are capable of infecting virtually all species of cultivated and wild plants. They are primarily a serious threat to crop production globally, infecting a wide range of arable, horticultural and ornamental crops. Viruses can directly reduce the economic output of crop production through developmental restriction or quality reduction. In arable crops such as cereals, oilseeds, potatoes and sugar beet, infection by viral particles can lead to yield loss caused by symptoms such as a reduction in photosynthetic area by leaf symptoms and stunted growth from metabolic collapse. In horticultural and ornamental crops viral infection results in a reduction of yield but of key importance is the symptomatic plants or fruits being rendered unmarketable. The main vectors of plant viruses are invertebrates, within which aphids and whiteflies form the bulk, with thrips, mites, and nematodes being key vectors too.
Management of invertebrate vectored plant viruses involve a combination of practices. Most strategies target the vector by preventing vector spread through crop, using insecticides for example, or by avoiding peak migration of the vector to avoid infection e.g., by adjusting drill date. Tolerant and resistant crop varieties can be used to minimise damage caused by the virus. Following integrated pest management and good crop establishment practices can mitigate the damage from infection.
Crop viruses can also be transmitted through soil, either by direct contact between infected plant material and the soil or by interactions with soil-dwelling organisms such as nematodes and fungi. Soil-borne viruses can lead to persistent infections and can cause significant damage to crops.
Managing soil-borne viruses involves practices such as using disease-free planting material, practicing crop rotation, employing resistant varieties, and implementing soil treatments. Additionally, good sanitation measures, especially in protected agriculture can reduce the chance of spread.