Virus Diseases of Cereals


A serious constraint to agricultural productivity and a constant pressure to global food security and hunger are infections of plants with viruses. Of particular concern is the impact of viruses and their vectors on cereals, wheat, maize (corn in the USA), rice, barley, sorghum, oats, millet and rye, which provide much of the world's food and drink. Because viral populations evolve quickly, the emergence of new variants of classic viruses with stronger virulence, the occurrence of viruses switching host from the wild species to the cultivated crops, or recombinants between different families, pose a serious challenge in the control of viruses and to the durability of widely deployed resistance against viruses. As there are essentially no chemical options to prevent viral infections, genetic resistance remains the most sustainable strategy for combating these major agricultural pests.

Key Concepts

  • Cereals are the most important component of the world's food supply.
  • Intensification of crop production and introduction of vectors play key roles in the widespread of viruses in cereals.
  • Most viruses of cereals are transmitted by hoppers, fungi like or aphids. Beetles and mites are responsible for the transmission of newly emerging viruses of cereals.
  • With no chemical options to prevent viral infections, genetic resistance remains the most sustainable strategy.
  • Recent threats in global food security are due to newly emerging viral diseases.

Keywords: plant viruses; cereals; vectors; control; disease; resistance

Figure 1. Winter‐sown barley infected with Barley yellow mosaic virus in the United Kingdom.
Figure 2. Maize infected with Maize streak virus in Botswana.
Figure 3. A winter wheat field with severe Wheat streak mosaic infection in the Great Plains region, USA (a) to compare to a healthy wheat field (b).
Figure 4. Wheat streak mosaic symptoms: streaks of green and chlorotic areas on the leaf (a), severe stunting and thin stand with poor tillering (b).


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Further Reading

Brunt AA, Crabtree K, Dallwitz MJ, et al. (eds) (1996) Viruses of Plants. Wallingford, UK: CAB International.

D'Arcy CJ and Burnett PA (eds) (1995) Barley Yellow Dwarf: 40 Years of Progress. St Paul, MN: APS Press.

Smith HG and Barker H (eds) (1999) The Luteoviridae. Wallingford, UK: CAB International.

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Rakotondrafara, Aurélie M, Byamukama, Emmanuel, and Plumb, Roger T(Jun 2017) Virus Diseases of Cereals. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000762.pub3]