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Disease Disasters: the Economic Impact

For years, berry nurseries and growers in some regions of the country have recognized how important clean plants are, largely due to experience with outbreaks of virus diseases.


In strawberries there have been three notable diseases emerge due to viruses in the last two decades. In California in the 2000s, strawberry decline, caused by a combination of strawberry mottle, strawberry mild yellow edge, strawberry pallidosis, and beet pseudo yellows (as well as others), caused more than $50 million in losses. During the same time, in Washington state and British Columbia, strawberry crinkle virus emerged which, in combination with other aphid-borne viruses, caused a severe decline. In the Southeastern U.S., strawberry decline devastated the 2012- 2013 season because virus-infected plants (from nursery material that was grown improperly) made it into production fields. Infected plants never performed to their full potential and resulted in losses in excess of $25 million.


In Michigan during the 1980s, blueberry shoestring disease caused by blueberry shoestring virus caused crop losses estimated at $3 million per year. In the Pacific Northwest, blueberry shock and scorch diseases have caused losses estimated in excess of $100 million to the industry since 1990.


In the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s and continuing for over three decades, raspberry crumbly fruit disease, caused by a virus complex of raspberry bushy dwarf virus, raspberry leaf mottle virus, raspberry latent virus and/or black raspberry necrosis virus, cost raspberry growers more than $1000/acre/year.


However, other regions of the country have not learned this difficult lesson yet. With the increase in movement of ‘plants for planting’ across state and country borders, there is an associated increase in the risk of moving plant pathogens. The introduction of pathogens to new areas can result in significant problems for agriculture (Gergerich et al., 2015).


To counteract these threats, new diagnostic tools, many of which were developed at NCPN centers, are being applied to detect viruses and improve quarantine and certification programs (Martin et al., 2016). 


Dieback in strawberry field.


Blueberry Scorch virus. Kerik Cox, Cornell University

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