Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Virus Res. 2000 Nov;71(1-2):161-9.

A century of plant virus management in the Salinas valley of California, 'East of Eden'.

Author information

  • 1USDA-ARS, 1636 E Alisal Street, Salinas, CA 93905, USA.


The mild climate of the Salinas Valley, CA lends itself well to a diverse agricultural industry. However, the diversity of weeds, crops and insect and fungal vectors also provide favorable conditions for plant virus disease development. This paper considers the incidence and management of several plant viruses that have caused serious epidemics and been significant in the agricultural development of the Salinas Valley during the 20th century. Beet curly top virus (BCTV) almost destroyed the newly established sugarbeet industry soon after its establishment in the 1870s. A combination of resistant varieties, cultural management of beet crops to provide early plant emergence and development, and a highly coordinated beet leafhopper vector scouting and spray programme have achieved adequate control of BCTV. These programmes were first developed by the USDA and still operate. Lettuce mosaic virus was first recognized as causing a serious disease of lettuce crops in the 1930s. The virus is still a threat but it is controlled by a lettuce-free period in December and a seed certification programme that allows only seed lots with less than one infected seed in 30000 to be grown. 'Virus Yellows' is a term used to describe a complex of yellows inducing viruses which affect mainly sugarbeet and lettuce. These viruses include Beet yellows virus and Beet western yellows virus. During the 1950s, the complex caused significant yield losses to susceptible crops in the Salinas Valley. A beet-free period was introduced and is still used for control. The fungus-borne rhizomania disease of sugarbeet caused by Beet necrotic yellow vein virus was first detected in Salinas Valley in 1983. Assumed to have been introduced from Europe, this virus has now become widespread in California wherever beets are grown and crop losses can be as high as 100%. Movement of infested soil and beets accounts for its spread throughout the beet-growing regions of the United States. Control of rhizomania involves several cultural practices, but the use of resistant varieties is the most effective and is necessary where soils are infested. Rhizomania-resistant varieties are now available that perform almost as well as the non-resistant varieties under non-rhizomania conditions. Another soil-borne disease termed lettuce dieback, caused by a tomato bushy stunt-like tombusvirus, has become economically limiting to romaine and leaf lettuce varieties. The virus has no known vector and it seems to be moved through infested soil and water. Heavy rains in the past 4 years have caused flooding of the Salinas River and lettuce fields along the river have been affected severely by dieback. Studies are now in progress to characterize this new virus and identify sources of resistance. Agriculture in the Salinas Valley continues to grow and diversify, driven by demands for 'clean', high quality food by the American public and for export. The major aspects of plant virus control, including crop-free periods, breeding for resistance, elimination of inoculum sources, and vector control will continue to be vital to this expansion. Undoubtedly, the advances in crop production through genetic manipulation and advances in pest management through biological control will eventually become an important part of agricultural improvement.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk