Hop Latent Viroid, a Fast-emerging Threat to Cannabis Businesses

Hop Latent Viroid (HLVd)–a plant pathogen common in the hops industry–is a fast-emerging threat to cannabis businesses across the nation. It causes stunting and reduced yields, is easily spread amongst plants, and is extremely difficult to kill on surfaces with heat or disinfectants. Viroids are naked, single-stranded, circular pieces of RNA that are very tightly bound together, so they are very difficult to destroy. They lack a protein coat, so they can’t enter cells by attaching to receptors in the cell membrane the way viruses do. They instead must enter damaged cells, where they replicate in either the nucleus or chloroplasts. 

HLVd is spread by mechanical transmission, so a plant can be infected by contaminated shears, razors, or even by rubbing against another plant in the grow. Currently, the most effective way to sterilize contaminated tools and surfaces is to use a 10% bleach solution for 60 seconds. Isopropyl alcohol, peroxides, chlorine dioxide, and other traditional disinfectants are largely ineffective; according to Dr. Tassa Saldi of TUMI Genomics, isopropyl alcohol actually helps the viroid infect plant tissue, and the viroid can withstand the heat of a blowtorch. 

To safeguard your business against HLVd and other plant pathogens a holistic approach is necessary. Proper quarantine and testing of incoming nursery stock, appropriate process controls for propagation and cultivation, and ongoing, preemptive testing of the crop are just a few of the requirements to maintain a healthy, disease-free grow. National Cannabis Risk Prevention Services can help your company identify and control major risks to your business, and our Academy can fill in employee knowledge gaps so that your business can not only succeed but thrive in this uncertain industry. Let NCRPS help you protect your business from HLVd and other preventable risks.

Andrew Hatch
Director of Biosecurity

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