Early planting, management of edges and non-crop habitats reduce potyvirus infection in maize


Viruses are a limiting factor in maize production areas around the world. The knowledge of the interactions between agroecosystems and the virus-vector-host system is limited, but a landscape-scale approach could help fill this gap. In this study, we show how the use of multiple spatial scales, i.e. 200, 500 and 1000 m, is a novel methodology for explaining the incidence of two closely related potyviruses: maize dwarf mosaic virus and sugarcane mosaic virus. To determine the factors involved in virus incidence, we recorded the proportion of surrounding crops and non-crop habitats at the landscape scale and, at the field scale, we recorded the planting date, the maize field area, the crop rotation and the weed diversity in the edges. In addition, we estimated the numbers of aphids with sticky yellow traps. Virus incidence in maize and in alternative grass hosts was determined by DAS-ELISA. Generalised linear mixed models were fitted using the multimodel inference method. The results showed that the most predictive model for the incidence of both potyviruses was at a scale of 200 m, but for the aphid abundance, it was at a scale of 500 m. Maize dwarf mosaic virus incidence was most affected by field management, and sugarcane mosaic virus by landscape variables. The planting date and the weed diversity in the edges were the field variables with the highest positive effects on both potyviruses. Moreover, both viruses were positively related to the abundance of aphids, and maize dwarf mosaic virus was only related to the cover of Johnson grass in the edges. Non-crop habitats had negative effects on potyvirus incidence at all spatial scales, showing that biodiversity in the landscape decreases the incidence of viruses. Here, we show that the early planting, the management of edges and the presence of non-crop habitats are key factors.

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We are grateful to L. Serrano for his help during maize sampling and A. Juárez for weed species identification. We thank to the technicians from agricultural cooperatives for providing information on the management, and the landowners, for allowing us to access to their fields.


G.C.O. contributed to collect the landscape information, the insect abundance, grass and maize samples, analysed of the data, interpreted the results, and drafted the article. R.A. contributed to the design of the work, the collect insect data and drafted the article. M.A. contributed to the design of the collect maize and grass samples, and revised the final manuscript.


This study was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness project AGL2014-53970-C2-1-R and AGL2017-84127-R. G. Clemente-Orta was also funded by the grant BES-2015-072378 from the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.

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Correspondence to Gemma Clemente-Orta.

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Clemente-Orta, G., Albajes, R. & Achon, M.A. Early planting, management of edges and non-crop habitats reduce potyvirus infection in maize. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 40, 21 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-020-00625-4

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  • Maize virus
  • Aphids
  • Planting date
  • Alternative host
  • Non-crop habitats
  • Agricultural landscape
  • Sustainable crop protection