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The Rise in Alfalfa Mosaic Virus

The Alfalfa Mosaic Virus, named for its typical infestation of alfalfa, has become an increasing problem for those in the hemp and medical cannabis industries. This insect-carried virus can wreak havoc on indoor and outdoor grows alike if proper preventative measures are not observed.

Understanding how Alfalfa Mosaic Virus is transmitted from crop to crop is the first step to combat this unwelcome menace. The second is to understand how Alfalfa Mosaic Virus causes damage to your cannabis plants. The third is creating a strategy to prevent the virus from taking hold and desecrating your crop.

How Is Alfalfa Mosaic Virus Transmitted To Hemp and Cannabis Plants?

Alfalfa Mosaic Virus is typically transferred from plant to plant by small bugs called aphids. According to Utah State University’s Utah Pests Extension [1], this virus “is spread by several species of aphids, and it is unknown if Cannabis aphid is a vector. Aphids acquire the virus from an infected plant and transmit it to hemp by probing leaf tissues”.

These aphids can be transferred in many different ways, including (but not limited to);

  • Plant to plant contact, specifically crops planted close together.
  • Host transportation, for example, humans or dogs.
  • Through improperly stored soils
  • Attracted by unclean growing conditions, for example, the excess dead plant material in the pot.

Another common method is through mechanical transmission. In a grow setting, this will typically be done with improperly cleaned tools, such as scissors. This can be avoided by implementing sanitizing standards and providing each separate grow area with its own tools.

Once transferred from an aphid or mechanical means to a hemp or cannabis plant, Alfalfa Mosaic Virus will begin to have an adverse effect. Though testing can help detect the virus before causing permanent damage, oftentimes it will go unnoticed until visible signs emerge. Tell-tale signs of Alfalfa Mosaic Virus include curling leaves and a bronze discoloration on the leaf that may mimic the appearance of iron excess.

This stress on the plant can damage entire crops, causing the development of seed producing hermaphrodite plants, poor yields, and vulnerability to other damaging inflictions. The later Alfalfa Mosaic Virus is caught, the more damage will be done to the infected crop. If left unresolved, Alfalfa Mosaic Virus can ruin the entirety of a crop. However, the earlier the virus is caught, the sooner it can be remedied. Preemptive testing is one such method that can help save entire crops from ruin, in addition to using predator bugs such as ladybugs and plant-based foliar sprays.

How Does Alfalfa Mosaic Virus Cause Damage To Plants?

Since information on how Alfalfa Mosaic Virus causes harm to Cannabis is limited, insight can be derived from the over 698 plant species it is known to naturally infect [2-5], which includes potatoes, soybeans, and tobacco. The first step to understanding how a pathogen works typically involves understanding the molecular structure and will provide insight on what biological mechanism the virus interferes with.

In the case of Alfalfa Mosaic Virus, it is composed of a three part genome that combines single-stranded positive-sense RNAs. These RNAs are appropriately named: RNA1, RNA2, and RNA3. RNA1 and RNA2 encode viral replicase proteins, which simply allow for the virus to “reproduce”. RNA3 encodes the movement and coat proteins that provide the basis for infection [6-8].

The coat protein of Alfalfa Mosaic virus allows it to gain access into a plant cell host then causes damage by interfering with importin-a, which is a component of nuclear import pathway [9]. This translates to explaining why this virus is capable of infecting and causing harm to so many plants as the nuclear import pathway is a universal plant function that allows transport across cell membranes [10]. This is akin to stopping you not being allowed to eat. Screwing with how a plant cell takes up nutrients provides an explanation of why the classic bronze discoloration symptoms of Alfalfa Mosaic Virus tend to mimic nutrient deficiency.

How To Test For Alfalfa Mosaic Virus

Testing can be expensive but is one of the best investments that can be made in a business that depends on successful harvests. Verne Bioanalytics is dedicated to placing the power of testing into your hands. Our i-Test and WE-test models can help remove the guesswork and allow you to move forward with confidence.

Get started on the path to success with Verne Bioanalytics. You can find out more about our state-of-the-art testing models by reaching out using our Contact Us page directly on our website. When you try the technology from Verne Bioanalytics for yourself, you will see how easy setting yourself up for success can be.

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