Global trade in orchids could worsen the impact of viruses

Last updated: 7 Aug, 2019

Researchers have investigated the evolution of the two most prevalent orchid viruses.


The researchers used information representing the global distribution of the viruses, Cymbidium moasic virus, and Odontoglossum ringspot virus. This revealed that the international trade in cultivated orchids has 'homogenised' the genetic diversity of the viruses. In other words, the viruses have displayed few genetic differences since their emergence. 


These findings are worrying. They suggest a link between the rapid and regular trade in orchids, and their most prevalent viruses.


The rapid global dispersal of viruses could impact the lucrative orchid horticultural industry. It also threatens orchid species in the wild.


Orchids growing indoors on a windowsill

Image: Wikipedia


"Global trade has opened the doors to regular and rapid movements of both plants and their pathogens. Orchids are a highly threatened family and without better disease screening practice and phytosanitary regulation we may be placing wild populations at risk for unintentional spillover," said lead author Deborah J. Fogell, of the University of Kent, in the UK.


Read the paper in Plants, People, Planet: Fogell, DJ, Kundu, S, Roberts, DL. (2019) Genetic homogenisation of two major orchid viruses through global tradeā€based dispersal of their hosts. Plants, People, Planet. doi: 10.1002/ppp3.46