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on Cotton

Begomovirus-Whitefly Vector
Complexes: Emerging Threats to
Cotton-Vegetable Crop Biosecurity

August 2014

By Judith K. Brown, Ph.D.
University of Arizona

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Summary: This presentation will be of interest primarily to cotton, vegetable, and ornamentals producers, consultants, plant breeders, and plant pathologists in the US and worldwide. The purpose is to alert them to the potential threat of a geographically expanding complex of emergent plant viruses from various locations in Asia, the Sahel region of Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula, transmitted by the whitefly Bemisia tabaci sibling species group. These plant viruses (genus, Begomovirus; family, Geminiviridae) can be harbored by the whitefly colonizing plants and/or be present infecting ornamental species, cuttings, and/or vegetable seedlings grown in and transported from infested/infected areas. Also, infected plants may not show symptoms of virus infection, and the virus(es) do not necessarily have to be able to infect the particular plant species if the whitefly vector can feed on the plant, it can carry a virus for its lifetime, and therefore, can be transmitted to susceptible plant species, when the viruliferous whitefly is given the opportunity to feed.

This presentation discusses the characteristics and history of the emergent cotton leaf curl disease, the diversity and distribution of the many begomoviral species and strains that comprise the complex, and the origins and extent of recent spread of the predominant leaf curl virus-satellite combinations. Measures that should be taken to safeguard cotton and vegetable crops in particular, are monitoring, reporting suspicious symptoms, particularly when the whitefly vector is or has been known to be present, and continuance of efforts to develop virus-resistant varieties for deployment in high risk areas.

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