Prepare for bad beet curly top virus season in California

05/28/2013 11:03:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

beet curly top virus in tomatoesCourtesy California Department of Food and AgricultureThe stunted tomato plant to the right has been infected with beet curly top virus.It's looking like a bad year for beet curly top virus in California's central valley.

Populations of sugar beet leafhopper, which spread the virus, are unusually large and are coming in multiple waves, according to a grower newsletter.

As its name implies, sugar beet leafhoppers can infect sugar beets. But they also can transmit curly top virus to tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, among the hundreds of host plants.

If plants are infected earlier enough, they'll die. Later infections may cause plant stunting and reduced yields.

As hillside vegetation begins to dry, sugar beet leafhoppers migrate from the Coast Range to the Central Valley floor.

Typically, the valley populations cause minor losses after the initial migration.

But this year, growers, pest control advisors and researchers have reported multiple waves of virus infections.

Weeds in fallow fields and roadsides typically provide host plants.

But this year, it appears that all crops, including safflower, alfalfa, garlic, onion, wheat, orchards and vineyards, have become significant hosts.

Growers are encouraged to work with neighbors, identify host fields and work together to minimize ongoing leafhopper movement.

Growers wil have four months of active sugar beet leafhopper movement before the pests migrate back to the hills.

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