Pea early-browning virus

Peas are an important crop to New Zealand. Pea early-browning virus would kill many pea plants and make the peas inedible.

About pea early-browning virus

This virus causes a serious disease in peas. It can also infect beans, clover, lucerne, sugar beet, and some common weeds. The disease has few or no signs in these other hosts. But they can pass this disease to peas.

Pea early-browning virus has been reported in parts of Europe and northern Africa.

Global distribution of pea early-browning virus

World map showing distribution of pea early-browning virus

Why this is a problem for New Zealand

A severe outbreak of this virus kills many plants and can ruin the peas on surviving plants. We grow peas as a cash crop. Farmers and gardeners use pea plants (and other legumes) to put nitrogen back into the soil.

Some nematode species spread pea early-browning virus between host plants. Nematodes are tiny worms that can live in the soil. Some of these nematodes are already in New Zealand.

Many plants and weeds that grow wild in New Zealand could provide a reservoir for the pea early-browning virus. The virus could then spread back into crops. These factors would make it hard to control the disease if it established in New Zealand.

Map of New Zealand showing where pea early-browning virus could establish

How it could get here

The primary pathways for pea early-browning virus are infected seeds for planting and nursery stock. MPI has strict measures in place to limit the chances of pea early-browning virus making it through the border.

The nematodes that carry the disease are very fragile. They're unlikely to survive transport to New Zealand.

How to identify the virus

Signs include:

  • purplish brown flecks and streaks along the veins of stems and leaves
  • fragile stems that break easily
  • small brown spots on leaves
  • the tops of plants yellow and die
  • small and twisted pods with purple flecks and streaks
  • seeds (peas) are grey and very wrinkled
  • a large patch of dying plants in a crop in a severe outbreak.

Not all signs may be present.

If you think you've found it

Note: This information is a summary of this disease's global distribution and potential impacts to New Zealand. 

Last reviewed: