(UPDATED COVERAGE, 1:47 p.m., Jan. 17) Two new viruses found in Florida strawberry plants this season have had little effect on overall volumes, are easy to contain and shouldn’t be a problem next year, a U.S. Department of Agriculture fruit virus expert told growers.
At a Jan. 16 meeting hosted by the University of Florida and held at the office of the Dover-based Florida Growers Association, the USDA’s Bob Martin told growers about strawberry mild yellow edge virus and strawberry mottle, two viruses found for the first time in Florida strawberry plants this season.
Infected plants came from two nurseries in Nova Scotia, said Natalia Peres, a University of Florida associate professor of plant pathology, who organized the meeting.
Only a small percentage of Florida growers planted the infected plants, though some of those suffered 50-90% losses, Peres said.
Both viruses are spread by aphids that can’t survive in Florida, and the diseases are limited to strawberries, Martin told growers.
“We don’t expect it to be a problem again next year,” Peres said.
Growers will, however, look at changes to nursery protocols, Peres said. For instance, instead of relying on visual inspections only, growers could demand lab testing of stock before it ships, she said.
Some infected stock that was visually inspected was marked “virus free,” Peres said.
The two nurseries that sent infected stock won’t likely supply Florida growers next season, Peres said. But she said there are other Canadian nurseries to provide ample supplies.