Horticultural and nursery crops are the leading agricultural commodity in Oregon. Among currently grown nursery plants, Verbena x hybrida is a staple ornamental. It is grown and shipped worldwide, thus requiring a high level of certainty concerning the plants’ health and potential viability. V. x hybrida cultivars have been infected by a potyvirus that has been a sporadic but chronic problem in the floriculture industry for many years. Within the plant, detectable potyvirus titers fluctuate widely, making it difficult to detect in commercial nurseries. Virus detection can also be affected by changing environmental conditions, which also influence virus levels. The objectives of this study were to determine the environmental conditions that optimized detectable virus levels, to observe if the virus could be detected in tissue culture plantlets, to establish the earliest age at which plants could be accurately assayed, and to ascertain the most sensitive and reliable testing method for virus detection. The V. x hybrida cultivars in the study were infected ‘Lavender Shades’ and non-infected ‘Twilight with Blue Eye.’ Plants were tissue cultured or potted and placed in growth chambers at three temperatures with constant photoperiod and then at three photoperiods with constant temperature. The Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) and Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) were used as the testing methods. Tests were performed at two week intervals for a duration of two months in each of the two growth chamber experiments. The resulting data support the conclusion that V. x hybrida plants should be grown in pots at 26°C and 16 or 20 hour photoperiod for at least 6 weeks before testing with RT-PCR for the most accurate detection of virus.
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