Strawberry latent ringspot virus, a problem for the past 30 to 40 years in Europe, has recently been discovered in North America by Agricultural Research Service scientists and cooperators.

Scientists with ARS, Oregon State University, and Elmhirst Diagnostics and Research of British Columbia, found the virus on 17 percent of the California strawberry samples and on 4 percent of British Columbia strawberries. The virus was also found in a variegated mint.

The virus, which can dramatically decrease yields, is spread by nematodes, so the scientists were surprised to find the virus in California strawberries, as most are planted in pre-fumigated soil.

Plant pathologist Robert R. Martin of the ARS Horticultural Crops Research Unit in Corvallis, Ore., is leading the agency's efforts in studying and preventing the virus.

The group discovered the virus by doing a broad-spectrum test to look for viruses that may be involved in strawberry decline and variegation of mint. They compared nucleic acid and protein sequences of the virus from strawberry and mint to those in databases.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.