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Re: CULT: viruses

From: John Montgomery <monashee@junction.net>

On Tue, 21 Dec 1999, you wrote:
> From: GWhite & LRader <bentfork@navix.net>
>     You may be right about plant viruses, in that there are no cures.  I am not a
> plant pathologist.  But somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I recall that
> viruses, as you say are, often introduced by insect damage or other plant wounds.
> I also recall that some of these viruses can be devastating to certain plants.  For
> instance, the group of mosaic viruses can be serious threats to  crops.  Also, some
> of these plant viruses can replicate in enormous numbers within cells of the
> plants.  For instance, I recently read that Tobacco Mosaic Virus can account for as
> much as 10% of the dry weight of the plant.
Hi Gary,

I think that we agree on most of the points.  Certainly there are viruses which
are to be feared by humans but for some reason these more virulent ones
generally do not run rampant through the population.  One of the
characteristics of many plant viruses is an almost "intelligent" decision to
NOT kill their host.  Most viruses will not do well in dead tissue so it is not
smart to kill the host.

My point about humans perhaps should have been elaborated on a bit more.  It is
likely that every human being has been subjected to several virus attacks every
year and they recover from most of them.  The fact that in the end we may die
as a result of a virus infection does not alter the fact that we have survived
many other atacks.

I think the situation is rather similar when we consider plants.  Some are
resistant, some are tolerant and others are susceptible to viruses.  It may be
that ultimately these battles will be won in the genetic labs but I imagine
that solving the virus question for ornamental plants will not be high on the
list when funds are allocated.

In horticulture, the best and most cost effective method we have, for the
reduction of the virus problem is to breed resistance or tolerance into the
plants.  We can't test for resistance if we grow our plants in a sterile
environment.  We MUST give them the opportunity to become infected.  Then if
their response is poor we should be obliged to destroy them or simply allow
them to die.

I breed lilies and I am actually pleased when aphids form large colonies in the
seedling beds.  I consider that they are technicians working in my free form
lab. Without them, it would be difficult to grow the seedlings under sufficient
disease pressure to find out how good they are.

Most of us do not like the look of large aphid infestations in our gardens.  We
can fix that by having a good population of predators or with some water and a

My point is that we should not let our views on virus be controlled by the
relatively few virulent types.  By far the most are trivial.  Same in plants
and I submit that no garden plant is worth saving at all costs.  One of your
best contributions to the future of gardening may be to let that expensive
plant die a long slow death.

I really apologize for leaving on such a ghoulish note at this season of the
year.  Now I am off for several days of spoiling our first granddaughter.

Happy Christmas

John Montgomery
Give your plants the gift that really matters - some aphids.  :-)

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