Epidemiological study of Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus in greenhouses enables reduction of disease damage in cucurbit production.
Since 2007, the tobamovirus Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) has become widespread in Israel, causing severe damage to trellised cucumber and melon in greenhouses and watermelon grown in open fields. To reduce disease damage below the economic threshold, this study focused on four objectives: (a) monitoring the patterns of virus distribution within commercial cucumber greenhouses; (b) studying the potential transmission of CGMMV by agrotechnical activities; (c) virus localization in plant tissues; and (d) searching for techniques that might be adapted for mitigating the disease in trellised cucurbit growth. The results of our surveys demonstrated the role of contaminated seeds and soil as primary inoculum sources, and secondary spread caused by agrotechnical activities. The patterns of secondary disease spread were demonstrated in a series of inoculation experiments involving contaminated knives, shears or hands on wet and dry plants, conducted under research-greenhouse conditions. In parallel experiments using CGMMV-specific antibody and secondary antibody conjugated to Alexa fluor 488, the viral coat protein was visualized in several plant tissues: phloem, xylem, trichomes and grasping tendrils. In addition, commercial-greenhouse experiments were aimed at reducing the number of inoculum sources by identifying and removing infected plants from the plots (early monitoring) prior to agrotechnical activities and/or by adding intermediate medium (IM), such as virus-free compost, to the planting pits at the planting stage. It is suggested that the use of IM combined with early monitoring, awareness of worker mobility (from contaminated structures to young planting areas) and proper sanitation (e.g. disinfection of agrotechnical tools) may reduce the yield losses caused by CGMMV below the economic threshold.