Virus vector confirmed in Scottish blueberries

Blueberry growers have been warned that the blueberry aphid (Ericaphis scammelli) is likely to be widespread in Scotland and elsewhere, though a damaging virus it can carry remains undetected.

Image Green Yoshi (CC BY SA 3.0)
Image Green Yoshi (CC BY SA 3.0)

The pest was confirmed during routine aphid surveys by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), and is now thought to be widespread across Scotland as well as occurring elsewhere in the UK and Europe.

The aphid is a known vector of blueberry scorch virus (BlScV), and although the virus has yet to be detected in the UK, it has been found across Europe and it is likely to spread over large distances and enter new areas with the movement of plants, the James Hutton Institute has warned.

Affecting the highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), the virus causes browning of flower clusters at opening, while young shoots turn greyish black then die. Plants do not recover and more symptoms are expressed each year, though the extent of the damage depends on cultivar and virus strain.

Bushes can carry the virus yet that remain symptomless, and there is often a one- to two-year latent period between infection and symptoms being observed, so growers are urged to remain vigilant for a few years after new plants have been established.


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