Most viral infections negatively affect an organism’s health, but one plant virus in particular — soybean vein necrosis orthotospovirus, often referred to as SVNV — may actually benefit a type of insect that commonly feeds on soybean plants and can transmit the virus to the plant, causing disease, according to Penn State research.
In a laboratory study, the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences researchers found that when soybean thrips — small insects ranging from 0.03 to 0.20 inches long — were infected with SVNV, they tended to survive longer and reproduce better than thrips that were not infected.
Asifa Hameed, who led the study while completing her doctoral degree in entomology at Penn State and is now a senior scientist of entomology at Ayub Agricultural Research Institute in Multan, Pakistan, said the findings give key insight into how the virus spreads in plants and affects its insect hosts.
“In addition to prolonging the life of the insects, SVNV infection also shortened the doubling time of soybean thrip populations,” Hameed said. “This means infected thrips populations grew much more quickly, which could enhance the spread of the virus to additional soybean plants.”
According to the researchers, who recently published their findings in the journal Insects, soybean vein necrosis is a disease that affects soybean plants and is caused by SVNV. It can be spread by either infected seeds or infected soybean thrips. The thrips contract the virus as larvae by feeding on infected leaves and then can pass the virus to additional plants through their saliva, mainly during thrips adulthood.
Once a plant is infected with the virus, the pathogen first attacks the veins of the leaves, causing them to turn yellow. This yellowing then can spread to other parts of the leaves, which eventually may develop brown lesions.