Strawberry vein banding is an invisible viral disease spread by strawberry aphids. You will never know it has infected your plants until another virus infects your strawberries.
As soon as another virus infects your plants, usually strawberry crinkle, the leaf veins of your strawberry plants suddenly start to turn yellow. And if the strawberry mottle virus comes along, those yellowing veins won’t be visible. This triple threat is called strawberry decline.
Symptoms of strawberry vein banding
The leaves of infected plants tend to be significantly smaller. Vein yellowing, when visible, appears erratically in new growth first. Sometimes only part of a vein has turned yellow. The two halves of each unopened leaf may look 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 a little more obvious.
Symptoms appear more strongly in the second and third leaves but are not likely in later growth. Unfortunately, the other symptoms include stunting and reduced fruit and runner production. Vein banding can reduce strawberry crops by nearly 20%. If another virus takes hold, you can lose your crop entirely.
Strawberry vein banding vectors
Strawberry aphids and other aphid species carry strawberry vein banding to your plants. Grafts from infected plants also spread the disease. Strangely enough, dodder can also spread the disease, but the 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 only be prevented by installing certified disease-free plants, placing plants in quarantine when they first arrive, and removing any infected plants.
Since aphids can fly at 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 avoid them 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 garden.
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