Department of Vegetable Research, Institute of Plant Sciences, Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center, P. O. Box 6, Bet Dagan 50-250, Israel.
Squash leaf curl virus (SLCV) and Watermelon chlorotic stunt virus (WmCSV) are cucurbit-infecting bipartite begomoviruses. Both viruses are found in the eastern Mediterranean basin but the effects of dual infection of both viruses on melon (Cucumis melo L.) have not been described. ‘Arava’ melon plants were inoculated in the greenhouse, using whiteflies, with either SLCV, WmCSV, or both. Control plants were exposed to nonviruliferous whiteflies or not exposed at all. Following inoculation, plants were transplanted to a 50-mesh insect-proof nethouse and grown until fruit maturity. The experiment was performed in two melon-growing seasons: spring, transplant in May and harvest in July; and summer, transplant in August and harvest in October. Following inoculation, SLCV-infected melon plants showed mild symptoms that disappeared with time, and there was no effect on plant height. WmCSV-infected plants developed disease symptoms that became more obvious with time, and plants were somewhat shorter than control plants in the spring but not in the summer. SLCV had no effect on yield, regardless of season. WmCSV had no statistically significant effect on yield in the spring but, in the summer, reduced yield by 22%, on average. Dual-inoculated plants showed a synergistic interaction between the two viruses. They developed disease symptoms that were more pronounced than WmCSV alone, with plants being shorter than control plants by 20 to 25% regardless of season. Moreover, the yield of dual-inoculated plants was reduced on average by 21% in the spring and 54% in the summer, and fruit appearance was adversely affected. Dual inoculation did not affect WmCSV DNA level but SLCV DNA level was increased several-fold by the presence of WmCSV.