Bob Mulrooney, Extension Plant Pathologist; firstname.lastname@example.org
The first winter wheat sample with virus symptoms arrived last week. It was sent for confirmation and was determined to be wheat soilborne mosaic virus. Wheat on the Delmarva can be infected by four possible virus diseases. The aphid-transmitted barley yellow dwarf mosaic virus is probably the most common, depending on how high aphid populations are in the fall and early spring. Often irregular patches of stunted wheat occur in wheat fields and as the season warms up infected young leaves will become yellow, and then turn red. Wheat spindle streak mosaic causes a yellow discoloration to wheat seedlings. This yellow discoloration is often most intense in low areas of the field. Leaves of infected plants have long, yellow streaks that are slightly wider in the middle than at their ends. Symptoms are similar to wheat soilborne mosaic and plants often are infected with both diseases. Winter wheat infected by wheat soilborne mosaic develops a pale-yellow discoloration shortly after breaking dormancy in the spring. The incidence of wheat soilborne mosaic is often greater in low areas of the field where moist soil conditions favor growth of the protozoa that spread this viral disease. Leaves of infected plants often have a mosaic pattern of dark green blotches on a pale greenish-yellow background. Symptoms will normally fade when warm temperatures slow the activity of the virus within infected plants. Control of both these soilborne diseases is by planting resistant varieties.
The least common virus disease of wheat that we see is wheat streak mosaic. Leaves of plants infected with wheat streak mosaic have bright yellow streaking. Symptoms are often most severe near the tip of the leaf. The virus that causes wheat streak mosaic survives in volunteer wheat and spreads by wheat curl mites. The disease is often most severe in areas of a field that are closest to these sources of the disease and mites.
It can be very difficult to positively identify these virus diseases especially early in the spring. They can look like other diseases or nutritional disorders. Testing of infected plants can help diagnose the problem to avoid repeating it in the future or eliminate other possible causes of the symptoms. Unfortunately by the time you see symptoms of these virus diseases there is no control of any of these diseases.