Strawberry vein banding is a viral disease spread by strawberry aphids, but you will never know it has infected your plants until another virus comes along.
As soon as another virus infects your plants, usually strawberry crinkle, suddenly the leaf veins of your strawberry plants start to turn yellow. And if the strawberry mottle virus comes along, well, those yellowing veins won’t be visible. This mess is called strawberry decline, a topic for another day.
Symptoms of strawberry vein banding
Leaves of infected plants tend to be significantly smaller than the leaves of healthy plants. The yellowing of veins, when visible, first appear in new growth. This yellowing appears erratically; sometimes only part of a vein has turned yellow. The two halves of each leaf may be held closer together than is normal and the margins, or leaf edges, are wavier than normal. Some crinkling of the leaf surface may also occur. As the leaf opens, the bands of yellow become somewhat more obvious.
Symptoms appear more strongly in the second and third leaves, but are not likely in later growth. [Weird, right?] Unfortunately, the other symptoms include stunting and reduced fruit and runner production. Your strawberry crop can be reduced by nearly 20% because of vein banding. As soon as another virus takes hold, you can lose your crop entirely.
Strawberry vein banding vectors
Strawberry vein banding is generally carried by strawberry aphids. It can also be transmitted by taking grafts from infected plants. Strangely enough, coming into contact with dodder can also spread the disease, but sap from an infected plant cannot. Stranger still, a clone of the vein banding virus can infect turnips, a completely unrelated species.
Strawberry vein banding control
In a word, you can’t. Strawberry vein banding can be prevented by only installing certified disease-free plants, placing those plants in quarantine when they first arrive, and removing any plants that you suspect are infected.
Since aphids can fly at certain points in their development, the threat of this and other viruses is constant. All you can do, besides the preventive measures listed above, is monitor your plants for signs of aphids and control them as well as you can. Insecticides and insecticidal soaps work against aphids, but your strawberry plants need honey bees and other pollinators to produce fruit. Those insecticidal controls will impact your helpers, too, so they should be avoided while plants are flowering.
Closely monitoring your strawberry plants and keeping other plants that might host aphids at a distance can go a long way toward preventing vein banding in your strawberry plants.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!