Naricssus virus

Joe Shaw
Mon, 12 Feb 2007 15:56:12 PST

Without claiming to be an expert on bulb viruses, a quick look at the WWW 
literature indicates there is no virus danger inherent in composting some 
paperwhite bulbs.  This is because most of the Narcissus viruses are not 
spread by plant-to-plant touching; therefore, should a bit of paperwhite 
tissue from the compost pile contact another  Narcissus plant, transmission 
will not occur.  Naturally, there are always viruses we don't know about, 
and new viruses are described all the time.  However, I can't recall any 
virus being transmitted from well composted material to any plant.

There is the case of the very sturdy Tobacco Mosaic Virus, that can last a 
long time in dry leaves or even on greenhouse surfaces, and which can be 
later transmitted to another plant.  However, TMV is an exceptionally 
durable virus (unusually durable), and I'm not aware of any indication that 
it can survive composting.  To survive, TMV would (I think) need to be in 
intact tissue, even if the tissue were dry.  Composting will destroy tissue 
and viruses.

So, toss your old bulbs into a compost pile and don't worry too much; it 
should be very safe.  If you want extra security, you could heat the 
paperwhites in a microwave to kill them (3-5 minutes ought to do it) so that 
there is no chance they will grow in the compost pile.

In the very odd case a virus could survive in composted paperwhites and 
reinfect other Narcissus plants at a later date, I can only speculate that 
such virus is exceptionally sturdy and easily transmitted.  In such case the 
virus has probably already spread about your home and garden on your hands 
or cutting tools--so the composting won't be a source of extra danger.   But 
the real point is that such a durable and easily transmitted virus is not 
known; thus, again there is no reason to worry.


Conroe TX

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