The Q&A Archives: Virus attacks peas

Question: Each year my snap peas get a virus that kills the plant before it produces many peas. What is this virus, and how can I control it without using chemical sprays? John Lindsey Port Townsend, WA

Answer: Your peas have enation virus, explains Jim Baggett, pea breeder at Oregon State University in Corvallis. This virus, widespread throughout the Pacific Northwest, is spread by aphids and infects peas and a number of other leguminous plants. Once infected, pea leaves become stunted, curled and mottled and the pods, if they develop, become curled, gnarled and split open. The best control is to grow disease-resistant varieties such as Cascadia, says Baggett. Planting in early spring or in fall, whenthe disease is less prevalent, also helps. Plant susceptible varieties in February or March, as soon as the ground can be worked, to get a quick crop before the aphid population swells, he advises. Fall peas, planted in late July, also tend to have fewer problems with the virus. Spraying to stop the aphids from spreading the disease isn't very practical or effective for home gardeners, adds Baggett.

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