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Common Weed Hosts of Insect-Transmitted Viruses of Florida Vegetable Crops

Gaurav Goyal, Harsimran K. Gill, and Robert McSorley

Weed growth can severely decrease the commercial, recreational, and aesthetic values of crops, landscapes, and waterways. More information on weeds can be found in Hall et al. (2009i). Other than affecting crop production by reducing the amount of nutrients available to the main crop, weeds can also influence crop production by acting as reservoirs of various viruses that are transmitted by insects. Several insects transmit different viruses in different crops, but aphids and whiteflies are among the most important virus vectors (carriers of viruses) on vegetable crops in Florida. The insect vectors feed on various parts of weeds that are infected by a virus and acquire the virus in the process. They then can feed on uninfected agricultural crops and transmit the virus to them. Insects are often attracted to weeds and survive on them because weeds can provide food for insects when preferred food is scarce, or weeds can provide shelter from adverse conditions such as bad weather or pesticide applications. Several weeds have been reported as virus hosts by Kucharek and Purcifull (2001). The current publication includes additional and updated material since that time and provides links to further information on specific viruses that affect vegetable crops. Certain volunteer vegetable plants can also act as sources of viruses that endanger the main crop.

Information on weed hosts of various vegetable viruses can be found in Table 1. Virus names are often based on the name of the vegetable they attack; however, certain viruses affect many different vegetables, e.g., Cucumber mosaic virus attacks bell pepper, tomato, spinach, cantaloupe, cucumber, pumpkin, squash, celery, and watercress. References to appropriate publications are provided for easy cross-reference and more details about the virus under consideration. Common viruses with their family and genus names are provided in Table 2. Information is also provided for each vegetable that was reported infected by the virus, and on the insect vectors that transmit the virus. Some viruses, such as Tomato mosaic virus, are not transmitted by vectors. Others, such as Bean common mosaic virus, can be transmitted by vectors or through seed. Detailed information about viruses and their transmission has been summarized by Adams and Antoniw (2011). Common and scientific names of weeds that act as virus sources are listed in Table 3.

Removal of weeds that act as virus sources may be helpful in reducing the initial infestation by a virus of the main crop in the same field as well as other fields that are near the weeds. Removal of volunteer plants from field borders may also help in management of viral diseases (Momol and Pernezny 2006).

While a number of weeds in and around fields of different crops can act as virus sources for the main vegetable crop, some of them are particularly important because of their ability to host a number of different viruses. A few of these are balsam apple (Figure 1), creeping cucumber (Figure 2), groundcherry (Figure 3), dayflower (Figure 4), American black nightshade (Figure 5), hairy indigo (Figure 6), and citron (Figure 7). The American black nightshade is common in Florida (MacRae 2010), and it is possible that some of the references to "nightshade" in Table 1 or to "black nightshade" may actually refer to this plant. Recognition of these common virus host plants is important because they may be reservoirs for viruses, allowing them to survive during the off-season when the main vegetable crops are not grown.

Balsam apple (Momordica spp.).
Figure 1. Balsam apple (Momordica spp.).
Credit: Brent Sellers (Hall et al. 2009a), UF/IFAS

 

Creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula).
Figure 2. Creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula).
Credit: Gaurav Goyal, UF/IFAS

 

Cutleaf groundcherry (Physalis angulata).
Figure 3. Cutleaf groundcherry (Physalis angulata).
Credit: Brent Sellers (Hall et al. 2009b), UF/IFAS

 

Dayflower (Commelina spp.).
Figure 4. Dayflower (Commelina spp.).
Credit: Gaurav Goyal, UF/IFAS

 

American black nightshade (Solanum americanum).
Figure 5. American black nightshade (Solanum americanum).
Credit: Gaurav Goyal, UF/IFAS

 

Hairy indigo (Indigofera hirsuta).
Figure 6. Hairy indigo (Indigofera hirsuta).
Credit: Robert McSorley, UF/IFAS

 

Citron (Citrullus lanatus var. citroides).
Figure 7. Citron (Citrullus lanatus var. citroides).
Credit: Gaurav Goyal, UF/IFAS

References Cited

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Table 1.  Weed hosts of several important vegetable viruses in Florida.

Table 2.  Common viruses, families, vegetable crop hosts, and their vectors.

Table 3.  Common and scientific names of various weed hosts of viruses.

 

Publication #ENY-863

Date: 4/28/2022

RELATED TOPICS

  • Program Area: Integrated Pest Management
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About this Publication

This document is ENY-863, one of a series of the Entomology and Nematology Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date April 2012. Revised April 2022. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Gaurav Goyal, postdoctoral research associate; Harsimran K. Gill, postdoctoral research associate; and Robert McSorley, retired professor, Entomology and Nematology Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Contacts

  • Xavier Martini