Rose viruses: understanding the current status and protecting the future of the UK rose sector

RHS project team
Gerard Clover, Rebekah Robinson
Ines Vazquez-Iglesias, Neil Boonham (Newcastle University) Adrian Fox (Fera Science Ltd.)
Start date
18/09/2017 00:00:00
End date
18/09/2020 12:00:00
The problem
According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) the garden industry contributes £9 billion to the UK economy every year and they valued ornamental plant production at £1.1 billion in 2015, suggesting that diseases caused losses of £630 million within UK ornamental plant production of which £40 million was due specifically to viral diseases.

Despite this and the importance of rose cultivation, nobody has studied rose viruses in the UK since the work of BJ Thomas in the 1980’s. Molecular methods for detection of viruses have progressed since that time. The advance of molecular techniques could help us to clarify the taxonomy of rose viruses and study their aetiology more effectively.

If we can understand the current situation in the UK, we can identify the gaps in our knowledge and establish future priorities. This will help to develop more sustainable rose cultivation in the UK. Improving our current understanding will also improve our response to new and emerging diseases such as Rose rosette virus which has spread rapidly in the US and has been recently reported in India (2017), but it is not yet present in the UK.
We have been collecting samples from different parts of the UK and using different molecular techniques such as ELISA, qPCR and high-throughput sequencing to analyse the samples. The aim is to determine which viruses are currently infecting roses in the UK. We will also use these results to compare the different detection methods.

Furthermore, we want to guarantee that UK is free of Rose rosette virus, a devastating virus coming from the US, and do as much as possible to avoid its entrance and spread.

Rose mosaic disease is caused by several viruses, including Strawberry latent ringspot virus and Arabis mosaic virus. These viruses have been reported in the UK. Both viruses are transmitted by nematodes, but this has not been demonstrated in roses. We are setting up experiments to confirm that nematodes are the vector of these viruses in roses.
  1. Clarify the current situation of virus infecting roses in the UK
  2. Understand their taxonomy and the aetiology of the disease they cause to improve plant health resilience
  3. Assess the epidemiological factors critical to the management of Rose rosette virus in the UK (including host susceptibility, symptomology, and potential vectors)
  4. Demonstrate nematodes are vectors of Arabis mosaic virus and Strawberry latent ringspot virus in roses
Benefits to gardeners
With this project we expect to help gardeners and general public to protect their rose gardens against viral infections, especially Rose rosette virus. We want to avoid the entrance of this virus into the UK, stop the spread through other countries and avoid negative environmental impact that the spread of this virus could generate. 
Summary of results
Research for this project is ongoing. Once result have been analysed they will be shared on this page. 

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.