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CIP Training Manual

2.1 DETECTION/Symptomatology

Section 2.1.1
Symptoms of Plant
Virus Diseases

Symptoms are defined as the macroscopic or microscopic modifications

or variations (form, color, size) appearing in plants as a result of
pathogenic actions, nutrient deficiencies, adverse environmental
conditions, etc.

The study of viral disease symptoms requires careful periodic

observation of infected plants (indicator plants) to determine precisely the
type, intensity, and prevalence of any abnormality. The most evident
symptoms are those appearing in the leaves, although some viruses may
cause symptoms in the stems, fruits, roots, or other parts of the plant.

The most common symptom of viral diseases is slower development

resulting in plant dwarfism. Almost all viral diseases reduce yield, and the
effect may range from severe and easily perceivable to negligible.

In most viral diseases of plants growing in the field, the virus affects the
whole plant (systemic infection). The symptoms are called "systemic." In
artificially inoculated plants, certain viruses cause small, usually necrotic,
lesions at the point of entry (local infection). The symptoms are called
"local lesions."

Many viruses can infect certain hosts without the development of evident
symptoms. They are called "latent viruses" and their hosts,
"asymptomatic." In both cases, plants that usually develop symptoms
when infected by a virus may remain asymptomatic for a certain period
under certain environmental conditions, such as high or low temperature.
This is known as "masking."

Lastly, artificially virus-infected plants may show severe symptoms

immediately after inoculation, and eventually die. If the plant survives the
initial shock, the symptoms can be mild ("chronic symptoms") with
subsequent partial or total plant development. This is called "recovery."
Alternatively, symptoms may gradually become more severe and result in
slow or rapid plant degradation.

The symptoms of these types of viral infections are:

a) Local symptoms

Local symptoms usually appear on the leaves of inoculated plants. They

can be discrete isometric lesions, which can be counted and, in some
cases, used for quantitative studies. These symptoms are of no
economic importance, but are very useful for diagnostic work.

Local symptoms include:

• Chlorotic spots
• Chlorotic rings
• Necrotic spots

• Necrotic rings

b) Systemic symptoms

Systemic symptoms appear in non-inoculated plant tissues. They are the

most important symptoms because they can affect any part of the plant
(flower, fruit, petiole, etc.).

Systemic symptoms include:

Mosaic. This symptom consists of alternating normal, green areas and

chlorotic (light green) areas on the leaves. They appear irregularly and do
not follow a fixed pattern. Occasionally, the symptoms start with the veins
losing their color (vein clearing). We can include mottling, vein banding,
and chlorotic strips in mosaic-type symptoms.

Yellowing. This symptom consists of a partial or generalized chlorosis.

Yellowing-type symptoms include chlorosis, calico, aucuba, vein
yellowing, interveinal chlorosis, etc.

Necrosis. This symptom appears in systemic infections as apical

necrosis, vein or stem necrosis, systemic necrotic rings, etc.

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c) Growth abnormalities

These symptoms may appear in any of the plant parts. They include leaf
rolling, epinasty, blistering, sprout proliferation, rugosity, curling,
coriaceous leaves, dwarfisms, etc.

Recommended Literature
Bos, L. 1978. Symptoms of virus diseases in plants. Centre for
Agricultural Publishing and Documentation. Wageningen. 225 pp.
Salazar, L.F. 1996. Potato viruses and their control. International Potato
Center. Lima, Peru. 214 pp.
Walkey, D.G. 1985. Applied plant virology. 1st edition, London. 329 pp.

P.V. • Sec 2.1.1 – 99 • Page 3 - INTERNATIONAL POTATO CENTER