Hop (Humulus lupulus), of the Cannabaceae family, is a dioecious perennial climbing plant that is native to Asia, North America, and Europe and is commercially grown in many countries for its use in brewing and the pharmaceutical industry. Slovenia has a more than 100-year-old hop-growing tradition and it is an important national agricultural business, with 90% of production exported to foreign markets. Since 2007, symptoms similar to Hop stunt viroid (HSVd) infection have been observed in several hop gardens with cvs. Celeia, Bobek, and Aurora in the Savinja Valley and Koroška Region. Symptoms include stunting, leaf curl, small cone formation, and dry root rot. In the first year of finding the disease, the incidence varied from 1 to 30% and increased rapidly (by as much as 10%) each subsequent year, predominantly along plant rows. For molecular identification of the pathogen, RNA was extracted from leaves and cones of symptomatic and asymptomatic plants from two different hop gardens with cv. Celeia using Tri Reagent (T9424; Sigma-Aldrich, St Louis, MO). Reverse transcription-PCR was carried out using two pairs of specific HSVd primers, HSVdI/HSVdII and HSVdeI/HSVdeII (3,4). Both primer pairs gave a single PCR product from tissue from symptomatic plants, with expected lengths of ~300 bp, but no amplicons were produced using samples from asymptomatic plants. PCR products from HSVdI/HSVdII were subjected to direct sequencing and HSVdeI/HSVdeII products were cloned in PCR Script SK (+) (Stratagene, La Jolla, CA) vector and sequenced. Five sequences (EMBL Accession Nos. HE575344, HE575345, HE575346, HE575347, and HE575348) were obtained, which revealed 96 to 99% sequence identity with various HSVd variants (grapevine, citrus, and cucumber) reported in GenBank of the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). HSVd belonging to the Hostuviroid genus, Pospiviroidae family, has been previously reported in hop in Japan, South Korea, North America, and China (1,2). To our knowledge, this is the first report of the detection of HSVd on hop in Europe. Strict phytosanitary measures have been taken to prevent further spread and to eradicate HSVd infections.
References: (1) K. C. Eastwell and T. Sano. Hop Stunt. Page 48 in: Compendium of Hop Diseases and Pests. W. F. Mahaffee et al., eds. The American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN, 2009. (2) L. Guo et al. Plant Pathol. 57:764, 2008. (3) J. Matoušek et al. Plant Soil Environ. 49:168, 2003. (4) J. Matoušek et al. J. Virol. Methods 122:153, 2004.