FRB Fighting Hop Latent Viroid In Cannabis

A Colorado cannabis and hemp genetics platform company has revealed the results of a study on cleaning disease-affected plants.

Lafayette-based Front Range Biosciences (FRB) recently released the results of a case study on the effectiveness of using tissue cultures to clean plants infected with Hop Latent Viroid (HLVd).

According to FRB, the year-long study validates using tissue culture to clean plants infected with HLVd and mitigate the risk of the infection spreading.

A Pressing Issue

FRB reports that HLVd is currently cannabis farmers’ most challenging pathogen, having caused tens of millions of dollars in annual losses for growers.

FRB calls HLVd, a disease with the ability to enter a production system and spread asymptomatically, one of the cannabis industry’s biggest threats.

FRB says HLVd is hard to identify, but once symptoms begin to manifest, the effects are often devastating.

HLVd infections can result in stunted growth, reduced crop yields, deformed leaves, fewer trichomes, and smaller, sparse flower production.

According to FRB, one of the most common HLVd transmission methods is mechanical, through the use of shared tools between infected and uninfected plants.

FRB co-founder and CEO Dr. Jonathon Vaught says HLVd has become the biggest economic danger to producers on the west coast and appears to be widespread throughout the hemp and cannabis industries.

“With no effective ways to treat HLVd in cannabis plants and testing not widely available, the FRB team knew this was an important challenge to tackle for the future of the industry,” says Dr. Vaught. “We’re pleased with the success of this study proving the economic value of using in vitro testing and tissue culture for long-term pathogen prevention and crop loss mitigation.”

Plant Treatment

During its research, FRB utilized thermotherapy and meristem culture to treat six HLVd-infected Sativa varieties.

Both treatments have proved their usefulness in dealing with viral pathogen issues in other crops, though FRB’s Clean Stock program uses the processes specifically for cannabis plants.

FRB says other crops like strawberries, sweet potatoes, vines, raspberries, and bananas have experienced declines in disease resistance and quality after several generations of cloning.

Following treatments, all six Sativa plant varieties tested negative for HLVd.

FRB says, along with the Clean Stock program for hemp and cannabis, optimizing and validating the process for cleaning HLVd demonstrates the tissue culture program’s effectiveness as a complete solution for viral pathogen mitigation in Cannabis sativa.

The Clean Stock program uses redundant pathogen testing, micropropagation, true-to-type testing, and retention of elite mother stock for propagation.

“We have seen how other high-value crops have been impacted when varieties aren’t properly cataloged and testing protocols aren’t followed,” says FRB VP of Tissue Culture and Technical Services. “The same techniques used to ensure the survival of those valuable crops can now be used to mitigate the risk for cannabis operators so they can stabilize the agricultural supply chain, scale the industry, and have the security of continued profits.”

FRB says the Clean Stock program delivers a clear ROI for cultivators and brands, and the recent validation provides new tools to create disease-free germplasm through in-vitro techniques.

According to FRB estimates, a farmer with 200,000 plants and a 5 percent infection rate would lose approximately $1 million annually from HLVd infections.

FRB says implementing the Clean Stock program would cost a farmer less than $300,000 in the first year, with costs decreasing in the years following the program’s establishment.