Tobacco Mosaic Virus 2006

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

Two cases of tobacco mosaic virus have recently been diagnosed by the Diagnostic Services lab.

Tobacco mosaic virus affects many ornamentals and is easily spread in the greenhouse. This virus has a wide host range including impatiens, chrysanthemums, geraniums, African violets, and several vegetables including tomato and potatoes. The impact of the virus varies greatly, depending on the host and the age of the plant at infection. Symptoms can also vary depending on the host.

Tobacco mosaic virus
Photos 1 and 2.
Tobacco mosaic virus on petunias.

Unlike some of the other common viruses of ornamentals, TMV is not vectored by insects. The virus can be spread by sap, through vegetative plant production, and through mechanical means. Handling of plants during normal irrigation, pruning and maintance practices can spread the virus. The virus can also be introduced into production areas by workers after handling infested tobacco products. Workers should be encouraged to wash their hands thoroughly after handling tobacco and/or cigarettes.

Once plants are infected with a virus, the virus cannot be eradicated from those plants. Symptomatic plants should be removed and destroyed. Equipment used to prune or take cuttings from these plants should be cleaned well with a bleach solution to remove sap residue left from infected plants. The virus can also persist in some weeds, all weeds should be removed from within and around the greenhouse walls.

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