First, second, and fourth authors: North Carolina State University, Department of Entomology, Raleigh 27695; and third author: North Carolina State University, Department of Plant Pathology, Raleigh 27695
Overwintering of tobacco thrips, Frankliniella fusca, was investigated on common winter annual host plants infected with Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). Populations of tobacco thrips produced on TSWV-infected plants did not differ from those produced on healthy plants, whereas populations varied greatly among host plant species. The mean per plant populations of F. fusca averaged 401, 162, and 10 thrips per plant on Stellaria media, Scleranthus annuus, and Sonchus asper, respectively, during peak abundance in May. Adult F. fusca collected from plant hosts were predominately brachypterous throughout the winter and early spring, but macropterous forms predominated in late spring. Weed hosts varied in their ability to serve as overwintering sources of TSWV inoculum. Following the initial infection by TSWV in October 1997, 75% of Scleranthus annuus and Stellaria media retained infection over the winter and spring season, whereas only 17% of Sonchus asper plants remained infected throughout the same interval. Mortality of TSWV-infected Sonchus asper plants exceeded 25%, but mortality of infected Stellaria media and Scleranthus annuus did not exceed 8%. TSWV transmission by thrips produced on infected plants was greatest on Stellaria media (18%), intermediate on Scleranthus annuus (6%), and lowest on Sonchus asper (2%). Very few viruliferous F. fusca were recovered from soil samples collected below infected wild host plants. Vegetative growth stages of Stellaria media, Sonchus asper, and Ranunculus sardous were more susceptible to F. fusca transmission of TSWV than flowering growth stages, whereas both growth stages of Scleranthus annuus were equally susceptible. In a field study to monitor the spatial and temporal patterns of virus movement from a central source of TSWV-infected Stellaria media to adjacent plots of R. sardous, the incidence of infection in R. sardous plots increased from <1% in March to >42% in June 1999. Infection levels in the Stellaria media inoculum source remained high throughout the experiment, averaging nearly 80% until June 1999 when all Stellaria media plants had senesced. Dispersal of TSWV from the inoculum source extended to the limits of the experimental plot (>37 m). Significant directional patterns of TSWV spread to the R. sardous plots were detected in April and May but not in June. R. sardous infections were detected as early as March and April, suggesting that overwintering inoculum levels in an area can increase rapidly during the spring in susceptible weed hosts prior to planting of susceptible crops. This increase in the abundance of TSWV inoculum sources occurs at a time when vector populations are increasing rapidly. The spread of TSWV among weeds in the spring serves to bridge the period when overwintered inoculum sources decline and susceptible crops are planted.