If you grow beets or spinach, you should probably know about beet yellows virus (BYV) and beet pseudo yellows virus (BPYV). These two diseases look and behave enough alike that you really don’t need to know the difference, unless you start working in a plant disease lab. [I’d love to hear about that job!]
Along with BYV and BPYV, beet chlorosis virus and beet western yellow virus are two other diseases that can be included in this group for our purposes. [Unfortunately, I was unable to find a photo I could use. Do you have one?]
Symptoms of beet yellows viruses
Unlike the beet mosaic virus, where symptoms are first seen in new, younger leaves, symptoms of beet yellows viruses first appear on lower, older leaves. That yellowing is seen between the veins. If you look closely, you may also see reddish-brown spots. Those spots are like freckles, eventually becoming so numerous as to create bronzing. As the disease progresses, leaves thicken, becoming leathery and brittle. Of course, your beet plants can catch both diseases, or more, in a condition called virus decline, which can make diagnosis tricky.
These diseases are all spread by aphids. Aphids are bad. Aphids are the most common guilty parties when it comes to disease transmission. As they travel around your landscape, aphids pierce pretty much every plant they come across, looking for a tasty meal. Each time they do, viruses can move from the aphid to your plants. And beets aren’t the only plants that can become infected with beet yellows viruses.
Beet yellows viruses have can infect raspberries, strawberries, melons and squash, and members of the sunflower family. That’s probably half the edibles growing in your garden! Poppies can catch these diseases, too. So, what can you do about it?
Controlling beet yellows viruses
It only takes a single aphid to explode into a problem. They reproduce rapidly and don’t need help from another aphid to start making baby aphids. Beet yellows virus problems often begin in overwintered beets and other host plants. Cutting host plants off at soil level at the end of the growing season allows valuable soil microorganisms to migrate to other plants and you may even get new crops come spring! [I have found this is particularly true of cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and Swiss chard.]
These tips can help reduce the risk of beet yellows viruses occurring in your garden:
Any time you start seeing leaf discoloration, take a closer look. It’s usually easier to control problems sooner rather than later.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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