Have you been enjoying fresh, crisp beans from your garden lately? It amazes me how prolific these plants can be, providing fresh beans for dinner practically every day of summer. Except sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes bean plants start to turn yellow. It’s normal for lower, older leaves to turn yellow and fall off. It’s not normal when entire plants start turning yellow.
Bean leafroll virus (BLRV) goes by many other names: chickpea stunt virus, pea leafroll virus, legume yellows virus, and pea yellow top virus are just a few. This disease is caused by a luteovirus. Luteoviruses are spread by aphids. Infected plants to turn yellow. And bean leafroll virus attacks more than just peas and beans.
Once found only in peas and beans, this disease has spread to include alfalfa, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, and many other legumes. It can also occur in clover and vetch.
Bean leafroll virus symptoms
Plants infected with bean leafroll virus turn yellow, and the leaves curl. If you look closely, you will see that the chlorosis is occurring between the leaf veins. Stunting is common. These symptoms look very similar to beet western yellows virus (BWYV) and nutrient stress. Symptoms can vary between species. In addition to these symptoms, these species-specific symptoms may occur:
There can be a 50% to 90% reduction in pod production due to bean leafroll virus. In some cases, symptoms may appear and then fade away. This can be a problem since the plant is still infected and any aphids that feed on it can then spread the disease to neighboring legumes.
Bean leafroll virus management
The best way to reduce the chance of bean leafroll occurring in your garden is to control aphids —easier said than done, I know. While you can dislodge aphids with a strong spray from your garden hose, not all plants take kindly to that sort of treatment. Neem oil and insecticidal soaps are organic methods of aphid control.
Removing other host plants, such as burr medic and subterranean clover, can help reduce the spread of this disease. Since aphids and aphid eggs are easily brought into your landscape on other plants, putting new plants into quarantine is always a good idea.
There is no treatment for bean leafroll virus. Infected plants should be removed and thrown in the garbage. Resistant varieties are being developed, so keep a lookout for plants labeled with BLRV. Finally, rotating your legumes with cereal crops, such as barley, corn, millet, or oats can help break the disease cycle.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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