What is Beet Curly Top Virus in Cannabis?

Every year cannabis cultivation becomes more widespread across the world, and with that, growers experience new blights.  In fact, new pathogens appear every year.  Most people have heard of Hop Latent Viroid, but there are others, such as Citrus Yellowing Vein Associated Viroid and Beet Curly Top Virus in cannabis.  

This article will explore Beet Curly Top Virus (BCTV). You will learn why BCTV is a pathogen you should worry about and, most importantly, how to prevent it from spreading into your garden. 

What is beet curly top virus?

Beet curly top virus is a well-known virus in traditional agriculture, with the first signs dating back as early as the late 1800s. Beet curly top virus has been known to infect over 300 different species of plants but has only recently been diagnosed in cannabis, particularly in hemp plants (cannabis sativa).

BCTV has been infecting industrial hemp for years but has only been recently positively diagnosed in cannabis, opening a much larger discussion on how it affects the plant. For years cultivators have seen the effects of BCTV and attributed it to genetic mutations, heat stress, and other common factors affecting cannabis. Now that we know BCTV can infect cannabis, it is vital to understand the signs and symptoms of the virus and how to prevent its spread.

What are the symptoms of BCTV in cannabis plants?

BCTV has many signs in cannabis plants. Common symptoms include contorted or twisted new growth, yellowing of leaves, and stunting in infected plants. Many symptoms, such as the upwards curling of leaves, are BCTV  symptoms that sometimes get misdiagnosed as heat stress. 

Beet curly top virus examples
Examples of cannabis plants with the Beet Curly Top Virus

The effects of this virus can severely reduce the yield and quality of your flower. That’s why you must stay vigilant to quickly identify these symptoms and remediate the possible damage this virus can cause.

How is beet curly top virus transmitted?

Beet Curly Top Virus is only spread one way, through Leafhoppers. The virus has a symbiotic relationship with Leafhoppers, specifically the beet leafhopper. It will live in their guts and spread to the plants when the insect is munching on them. 

Members of the Family Cicadellidae, a.k.a Leafhoppers
Members of the Family Cicadellidae, a.k.a Leafhoppers

How likely is it for home growers to encounter beet curly top virus?

Home growers should be aware of BCTV as a possible threat to their grow, especially outdoor cultivators. In an outdoor garden, BCTV can quickly spread because plants are more exposed to leafhoppers, which are the only vector of the virus. 

However, indoor growers should be aware of the virus because it can be transmitted through seed. However, the likelihood of the virus transferring to other plants is minimal since you rarely find leafhoppers indoors.

Leafhoppers are most commonly found in the western United States, so many cultivators won’t necessarily encounter this problem in other parts of the world. Luckily, the virus needs either a host plant or a leafhopper host to survive, so there is no worry of transmission through soil or infected tools such as scissors or scalpels.

Is there a cure for beet curly top virus?

As of now, no product can cure beet curly top virus. Insecticides to kill or prevent leafhoppers from infecting their plants are a  growers’ best defense against the virus.  If you believe you have a plant infected with BCTV, it’s best to kill that plant so a leafhopper won’t be able to pick up the virus and spread it to other healthy plants. 

Many outdoor farmers use reflective mulches to deter leafhoppers from landing on their plants. BCTV can also spread through seeds, which is another reason why buying seeds from a reputable source is important. While we don’t currently have a cure, hopefully, with a greater understanding of the virus, better prevention methods will be discovered and can be implemented in everyone’s garden.

A reflective mulch in a field

Many outdoor cannabis farmers use reflective (plastic) mulches to deter leafhoppers

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Conclusion

Beet Curly Top Virus is a serious pathogen that all growers should be on the lookout for in their grows. With no definitive cure, it is essential to know the symptoms to react quickly to remediate damage to your crops. It’s always better to be proactive instead of reactive; by maintaining a good pest management program and thoroughly scouting your garden, you can stay ahead of damage caused by BCTV. 

Keep learning to keep your garden greener,

Spenser

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