Watermelon mosaic virus

Mon. Sep. 24, 2018

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Watermelon mosaic virus

A listener sent me an email with the coolest looking design on her watermelon!  I thought she was very talented!

Watermelon mosaic virus – photo by Sandee Rettke

Turns out, Sandee Rettke of Martin county, was looking to find out WHY there was such an intricate design on her watermelon in the garden.

This is the fun part and sometimes, frustrating part, of gardening.

With a bit of research, turns out that this lovely mosaic on her watermelon, was just that…  it’s called watermelon mosaic virus.  According to Cornell University, it is transmitted by aphids, and affects many types of cucurbits, like squash, as well as some legumes, like soybeans and peas.  Watermelon mosaic virus can also be transmitted by physical interactions of a person or tool, but the primary means is through Aphids.

Aphids – yellow

Aphids pick up the plant virus and can transmit it to other hosts for up to a few hours after contact. Pesticides don’t provide effective control of the virus unless they’re used as a preventative measure. After the virus is found, aphids could potentially spread it to new hosts before the pesticides eliminate the aphids. At least 29 species of aphid are known to have the ability to vector the virus.

red aphids on heliopsis. Notice the soldier beetle

Sandee’s garden is between 2 soybean fields, which aphids love.  They sprayed their fields but the neighbor didn’t.

Soybeans flowering

What else is really interesting is the variations of what the virus does to the plant’s leaves and fruits.  Some have weird bumps, others have mottled colors, and then there’s the really unusual, like Sandee’s, that has a really cool lace doily type pattern.

Zucchini infected with WMV frequently exhibit color breaking. Utah State
watermelon mosaic virus – photo by Jennifer Pries

Sandee promises to share what the melon looks like inside after she’s cut it open!

Please send me your comments, questions and suggestions for future Garden Bites at tkgardenbite@gmail.com