And now for the world’s most important plant viruses

Other than possibly the newly discovered leaping beetles of New Caledonia with a mysterious plant diet, few if any plant pests or diseases make it onto any one of the Time Top of Everything of 2011 lists.

But pests and diseases are busy making their way into their own ‘Top 10’. CABI scientists put together a list in 2011 of some of the world’s worst plant pests, and plant viruses and fungal pathogens are also getting together.

Molecular Plant Pathology has published the results of a survey amongst plant virologists, ranking plant viruses based on scientific/economic importance. The historical perspective, the science, the economics and the latest research are discussed for each of the viruses making it into the ‘Top 10’.

First place is given to Tobacco mosaic virus for its scientific importance based on its role which has extended beyond practical plant pathology (as a virus causing serious losses in a profitable crop) to its use as a model system and in molecular pathology. TMV (just to corroborate its importance) is also the highest ranking plant virus on CAB Abstracts. The database has more than 8000 records specifically on TMV since 1909 (just over 10% of all the records on plant viruses on the database), and is still going strong with about 100 records added each year.

‘Top 10 plant viruses in molecular plant pathology’ is free to download here. Now watch out for the ‘Top 10 fungal pathogens in molecular plant pathology’…coming soon…

Music enhances plant growth and keeps pests at bay

A recent AoB blog caught my eye (ear?). Do plants respond to music? The blog refers to an experiment in which plants were assembled in Cadogan Hall, London for a 3-hour recital performed by the UK’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to investigate the effects of music on plant growth.

Knowing that CAB Abstracts is a good source of unusual and interesting research, I had a quick look for any relevant studies. I can’t say the database is brimming with information in this area but what I found was definitely positive. One study looked at the effect of different acoustic frequencies on the growth of cowpea seedlings and concluded that sound waves with different frequency characteristics significantly increased plant height – good treatments included a 400 Hz frequency sound wave, cuckoo acoustic song, and an insect-music mixed sound(1). In the next paper by the same authors, a mixed combination of classical music and cricket voice (I think they mean the insect…) increased the growth, yield and nutritive value of edible fungi (including several Pleurotus spp.)(2). Other research papers report similar effects. Some include the use of ‘green music’ to enhance the metabolism and growth of plants, ‘green music’ consisting of a classical music base along with some natural sounds such as those of birds, insects, water and wind, i.e. like music in a field.

After analysing the responses of various crop plants to different audio signals, one group of researchers suggests that it may be possible to compose specific music for specific plants(3).

Plants, however, are not alone – ‘green music’ has been shown to enhance the milk yield of cows and increase the fermentation rate of starter cultures in probiotic yoghurt(4).

Insects, it seems, find music stressful, and music could be used to control unwanted pests. In one recent study(5), exposure to classical music decreased the lifespan of male Drosophila. Music appeared to affect the normal aging process rather than show overt toxicity, and the authors suggest it could be used in insect management programmes. Better still, greenhouse experiments on Chinese cabbage and aphid injury suggest a win-win situation – ‘green music’ increased Chinese cabbage yields and decreased aphid damage(6).


(1) Huang Jun; Jiang ShiRen. Effect of six different acoustic frequencies on growth of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) during its seedling stage. Agricultural Science & Technology – Hunan (2011) 12 (6) pp 847-851.
CAB Abstracts ref. Full text paper (in English) available on CAB Abstracts
Online ref.

(2) Jiang ShiRen; Huang Jun; Han XingHua; Zeng XianLin. Influence of audio frequency mixing of music and cricket voice on growth of edible mushrooms. Transactions of the Chinese Society of Agricultural Engineering (2011) 27 (6) pp 300-305.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online ref.

(3) Lee KeunYoung; Hur TaeWon; Lee WonChu; Yun SongJoong. Analysis of plants response to music signals. Journal of the Korean Society for Horticultural Science (2002) 43 (1) pp 5-10.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online ref.

(4) Mohammadi, R.; Rouhi, M.; Mortazavian, A. M. Effects of music waves on fermentation characteristics and viability of starter cultures in probiotic yogurt. Milchwissenschaft (2011) 66 (2) pp 193-196.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online publisher

(5) Morales, R. F.; Seong KiMoon; Kim ChaSoon; Jin YoungWoo; Min KyungJin. Effects of auditory stimuli on the lifespan of Drosophila melanogaster. Entomological Research (2010) 40 (4) pp 225-228.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online ref.

(6) Qin YuChuan; Lee WonChu; Choi YoungCheol; Ahn MiYoung. Preliminary study on the relationship among sonic, Chinese cabbage growth and aphids' injury. Journal of China Agricultural University (2001) 6 (3) pp 85-89.
CAB Abstracts ref.
Online ref.

Other references on CAB Abstracts

Effects of insect acoustic and music acoustic frequency on the growth of 6 kinds of vegetables.

The effects of different musical elements on root growth and mitosis in onion (Allium cepa) root apical meristem (musical and biological experimental study).

Measuring effects of music, noise, and healing energy using a seed germination bioassay.

Effect of musical sound of Veena on balsam plants.

How will climate change affect plant health?

As weather patterns shift around the world due to changing climates, so this brings new challenges to crop protection. Pests and diseases can become a problem in new areas, or appear earlier, making it necessary to change crop protection practices. Conversely, some pests and diseases may become less of a problem as conditions become less favourable to them. In Brazil, the Climapest project is examining the potential effects of climate change on crop health, in order to guide policies and provide options enabling one of the world's biggest agricultural producers to adapt to changing conditions. As IPS (Inter Press Service) reports, the project recently brought together 134 researchers from 37 institutions to discuss the issues.

Oil palm plantation

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