VIRUSES & VIRAL PLANTS: Pt. 1
As our extensive human history can exhibit, plagues and viruses have been claiming victims as early as 3000 B.C. But for viruses specifically, they really hit their sweet spot in abundance around the end of the 1800s and well into the early 1900s. In recent years, viruses have become more aggressive in variation leading to our modern-day collection of coronaviruses.
To limit your thinking that humans are the only species that can be infected by viruses, like the novel coronavirus, would be a narrow approach to the subject. Especially considering that, for every organism on this planet, there is also a virus that can infect it.
HOW DOES A VIRUS WORK?
Most viruses are quite small, microscopically small in fact. Viruses are so microscopically small, they typically require an electron microscope just to be seen. They consist of three parts, nucleic acid, a coat of protein, and a lipid membrane to seal it all in. The nucleic acid is the center of the virus and contains the DNA or RNA of the particle. Viruses come in all shapes and sizes and can look like a spiky ball, a creature from the Black Lagoon, or anything in between.
Due to the lack of complexity of a virus, for the virus to replicate or “live,” it must have a host cell. Without the host, the virus does not function. But, inside a host, the virus mutates into a villainous menace wreaking havoc on its occupant.
TYPES OF VIRUSES
There are several different types of viruses. In fact, there are more like hundreds of thousands of different viruses on our planet. There are so many viruses inhabiting every aspect of the Earth’s ecosystems, that it is thought that they could be the most abundant type of biological entity.
THE RAREST OF VIRUSES
Out of all the viruses that exist on the planet, there are only three that can infect humans, plants, AND animals. These types of viruses are rare. But, learning more about them, you’ll discover you’ve seen more of them than you’d think.
There are three types of viruses that can infect humans, plants, and animals. They are Bunyaviridae, Rhabdoviridae, and Reoviridae. Each of these viruses has different functionalities and tendencies, but each one is still capable of causing a viral infection in you and your plants. So, let’s look at them more closely.
This family of viruses is a single-strand virus with enveloped RNAs.The family is very large and has five different genera: Orthobunyavirus, Phlebovirus, Nairovirus, Hantavirus, and Tospovirus. Four of the five viruses infect vertebrates, with only one of the four infecting only arthropods. But last, and most certainly not least, the Tospovirus infects only plants.
While the first four genera of the Bunyaviridae viruses are interesting and definitely worth knowing more about, for the sake of this blog and our interest in plants, we’re going to be specifically discussing Tospoviruses.
The Tospovirus can be transmitted between plants by thrips and replicate in both the Thripidae and the plant cells. Upon first researching this topic, it was expected to find more rare and unknown types of infections that were caused by the virus. So much to my surprise, discovering that thrips was an insect vector component to the same family of viruses that typically cause a hemorrhagic fever in humans, really caught me off guard.
This virus was identified by scientists in 2014 as one of the most economically important and damaging plant viruses. As many plant owners are aware, thrips can quickly wreak havoc on fundamental crops such as potatoes, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables. But, thrips also have the potential to infect greenhouse plants, as well as flowering plants too.
DAMAGE FROM THE VIRUS
For some plants, the damage that Tospovirus thrips can cause may result in an unsightly plant with little harm done to its health. But, for herbaceous ornamentals or vegetable crops, a viral thrips infestation can destroy the entire potential of the plant, especially while young. The viral pests feeding on the plant can cause stunted growth and loss of leaves from premature dropping due to the damage caused. Another cause of thrips, in some parts of the world, is silvering. This type of damage causes flowering to fail in setting fruit on the infected plant.
One of the most fascinating components of this viral pest is the way that it repopulates and obtains the virus. In order for the pest to contract the virus, they must be in the larvae stage and must feed off of an infected plant. This is the only way that the thrip can contract the virus. However, both the larvae and adult thrips can spread the infection.
FINDING A SOLUTION
With 14 different species of thrips circulating the world, it’s no surprise that numerous solutions have since been developed. One solution is our very own Plant Sentry. There are other solutions out there to protect your plants from these viral pests, but doing so can be time-consuming and require a strong sense of sight.
It is commonly suggested to use a magnifying glass to view the thrips in their larvae stage or identify eggs on the underside of leaves on your plant. Another way to try and maintain control over this viral pest is to use a natural pesticide. Often it is suggested to curb a thrips infestation by pruning, however, if you aren’t careful, and you don’t clean your shears thoroughly the infestation can spread instead of remediating the problem.
If you have somehow managed to avoid the word “Coronavirus” up until this point, I apologize, but you are now in the same boat as the rest of us. The past month around the world has been nothing short of a real-life “dumpster fire” and most of the globe is now confined to the inside of their homes. But, there’s a silver lining to this pandemic. As we’ve seen throughout history, we will overcome this challenge and become stronger than we were before.
As we mentioned many paragraphs ago, there are still two other types of viruses that belong to a family of viruses that can infect humans, animals, and plants. For this week, we discussed the Bunyaviridae family. Come back next week to learn about another viral family. And as always, if you’re looking for a shipping solution to help manage pests, invasive species, and diseases visit our contact us page to learn more!