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Are our cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins and watermelons in danger?
Last summer, reports of farmers whose cucumber plants were infected with an unknown disease became more frequent. A German research team has now been able to identify the cause. It is the so-called "cucumber virus" that has so far only been rampant in the Mediterranean countries. The viruses infect plants such as cucumbers, zucchini, watermelons or pumpkins.
Researchers at the Leibniz Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures examined the strange plant disease that caused severe crop failures in summer 2019. In his investigations, the team led by plant virologist Dr. Wulf Menzel undoubtedly and for the first time in Germany after an infection with the "cucumber virus" Cucurbit aphid-borne yellows virus (CABYV). The results were published in the specialist journal "New Disease Reports".
Not a good summer for cucumbers
As the Leibniz Institute reports, numerous Bavarian farmers experienced an unknown disease in cucumber plants in summer 2019. The infection rate of the affected herds was 90 percent. The leaves turned yellow and became thick and brittle. The fruit set reduced. Overall, the harvest yield has dropped by up to 50 percent.
The cucumber virus has arrived in Germany
While there was only great perplexity about the plant disease, it is now clear beyond doubt: The so-called "cucumber virus" is now spreading in Germany. CABYV was first discovered in France in 1988. Infection with the virus leads to yellowed leaves (lack of chlorophyll) and leaf thickening in pumpkin plants, among other things, and is sometimes accompanied by massive crop losses.
How did the virus get to Germany?
According to the researchers, the viruses are transmitted by aphids. So far, the plant disease was only widespread in the Mediterranean. The experts at the Leibniz Institute are now expecting the virus to become established in Central Europe. "In the meantime, the virus was also discovered in Slovakia and Poland, for example," explains Dr. Wulf Menzel.
The stocks are still under threat in 2020
"Since the aphids that transmit the virus and natural hibernation hosts (various weeds) of the virus are at home with us, it can be assumed that the virus will continue to threaten the gourd family in Germany and other countries in northern Europe next year." , emphasizes the plant virologist. He therefore recommends effective preventive measures when growing cucumbers etc. in the greenhouse, such as preventing aphid infestation.
What can you do about the cucumber virus?
According to the Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture, it is not possible to fight viruses directly. The best way to protect the plants from infestation by aphids, for example by suitable insect nets. Infested wild herbs in the vicinity of the cucumber plants also represent a potential source of infection. A resistant form of cucumbers, pumpkins and melons could soon be grown, since resistance genes have already been discovered.
According to the Bavarian State Office, the virus is not classified as a potential quarantine pest organism, despite the high damage potential for pumpkin plants. This means that infected or suspected plants or fruits do not have to be removed or destroyed. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Menzel W, Maeritz U, Seigner L ,: First report of Cucurbit aphid-borne yellows virus infecting cucurbits in Germany. New Disease Reports, 2020, ndrs.org.uk
- Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture: The aphid-transmissible cucurbitacea yellowing virus (Cucurbit aphid-borne yellows virus) on cucumber and pumpkin plants (accessed: January 15, 2020), lfl.bayern.de
- Leibniz Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures GmbH: Cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkin at risk - Cucumber virus discovered in Germany (accessed: January 15, 2020), dsmz.de