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Overcoming Tobacco Mosaic Virus

[Hope Valley, Rhode Island, Nov 7, 2022] -These days the discussion of viruses and their ability to spread is more prevalent than ever. That’s why today we would like to inform you about a virus that impacts the health of plants that uses humans as a vector to pass on infections. The picture below is of a hemp plant being affected by a mosaic virus, which can be identified by the specific pattern (or lack thereof) of discoloration. It can also present itself as wrinkled deformed foliage, stunted growth, and stems that appear to wilt despite being turgid. There are many who believe that this is directly related to the common version of this virus known as the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). TMV is a virus that exists within almost every tobacco plant grown for commercial purposes. It is the first plant virus ever observed dating back to 1892. However modern tobacco has been genetically modified to repress the symptoms of this disease. This is a common practice amongst many agricultural products. For instance, papayas which were nearly wiped out, would not be commercially viable were it not for this exact method of modification.

Why TMV is so Dangerous

As I’m sure many of you know, just because a host of a virus is asymptomatic does not mean it is not capable of spreading the disease. That is why when people handle tobacco products and then get into their garden or farm they will notice over time that certain plants will take on these symptoms. The plant seldom dies from this infection, however, it is dramatically stunted both in size and yield. The thing that is most concerning about TMV is the wide range of hosts it can infect other than tobacco. The most common of which is tomatoes and it is such a prevalent threat that many tomato farmers will ban the use of tobacco products on their farm. It is also known to infect other major agricultural crops in the solanaceous family such as peppers, eggplant, and spinach. Some scientists believe it is capable of infecting over 250 different plant species. While many believe that it infects cannabis, no peer-reviewed studies have managed to confirm this. This concern is also applied to CBD wholesale products and other goods made from organic hemp flower.

When it comes to this virus, all it would take to bring a functional vegetable farm to ruin is a couple careless mistakes. The way this disease spreads is by sticking to whatever surface it comes in contact with. If someone smokes a cigarette or cigar, chews tobacco, or uses snuff they immediately become a vector. It will exist on your hands, clothes, and face spreading as you absentmindedly touch other parts of yourself and your personal belongings such as your phone or work tools. This virus is extremely stable as it can survive the fairly intense processing required to make tobacco products. It has been found on dry surfaces like greenhouse benches for up to 8 years and it can exist in dry plant material for up to 50 years. Wet and microbial environments tend to cause it to break down faster but it can still be found in infected soil for up to a year. It can also be vectored by certain plant pests such as leafhoppers, thrips, and even bumblebees have been found carrying it. Due to this, it is important to cull plants exhibiting signs of this disease.

How to Prevent the Spread of TMV

Preventing the spread of this disease is crucial for the success of almost any growing operation. As it stands the options available are limited and in most cases not 100% effective. Many sources recommend a solution of 20% non-fat dry milk and 80% water. This refers to a study performed in the 1930s where the researcher made speculation on the effect based on observations with little evidence to support his findings. 10 years later scientists continued to speculate that the proteins in milk make a molecular bond with the virus preventing it from binding to a host. However, they concluded that once this union breaks the virus once again becomes infectious. In the time since researchers have done little other than find loosely supporting evidence but have drawn no conclusions. It is widely accepted that a solution of 70% alcohol renders the virus inactive, however, this too is not uniformly agreed upon. Bleach has been proven to be similarly effective, however like alcohol it can not be used in every situation as it could potentially be harmful to skin or plant material. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be conscientious of not touching anything after handling tobacco products without first taking precautions. At our organic hemp flower farm, we utilize careful and time-tested methods to harvest the ingredients that go into all of our CBD products. At Lovewell Farms, we take TMV seriously to prevent its spread and ensure our products are made with the finest quality ingredients in the marketplace.