Human activity is causing new encounters between viruses and plants. Anthropogenic interventions include changing land use, decreasing biodiversity, trade, the introduction of new plant and vector species to native landscapes, and changing atmospheric and climatic conditions. The discovery of thousands of new viruses, especially those associated with healthy-appearing native plants, is shifting the paradigm for their role within the ecosystem from foe to friend. The cost of new plant virus incursions can be high and result in the loss of trade and/or production for short or extended periods.
We present and justify three recommendations for plant biosecurity to improve communication about plant viruses, assist with the identification of viruses and their impacts, and protect the high economic, social, environmental, and cultural value of our respective nations’ unique flora:
1) As part of the burden of proof, countries and jurisdictions should identify what pests already exist in, and which pests pose a risk to, their native flora;
2) Plant virus sequences not associated with a recognized virus infection are designated as “uncultured virus” and tentatively named using the host plant species of greatest known prevalence, the word “virus,” a general location identifier, and a serial number; and
3) Invest in basic research to determine the ecology of known and new viruses with existing and potential new plant hosts and vectors and develop host-virus pathogenicity prediction tools.
These recommendations have implications for researchers, risk analysts, biosecurity authorities, and policy makers at both a national and an international level.
TMV image courtesy of Russell Kightley Media
Amen, brothers and sister, amen!! Points 1 and 3, especially, and especially here at home in South Africa!!
It is a bizarre thing: our country has a large share of the worlds’s plant biodiversity, yet it is EXTRAORDINARILY hard to get ANY money to do plant virology.
Which is why I do biotechnology, vaccinology and human virology these days.
It only make sense, though: if you don’t know what is present in your plants in terms of viromes, then you don’t know what the potential threats are to whatever it is you want to grow. As it is, South Africa is not actually that good aplce to grow anything: we’re too dry, and there simply isn’t the amount of arable land or decent soil that our northern neighbiours have.
Which is why we should be looking at THEIR plant viral diversity….
See on www.plospathogens.org