It has been known for a long time that the majority of plant viruses contain RNA and in the past decade and a half it has been realized that many have genomes consisting of three molecules of single-stranded RNA with positive polarity. Among these are viruses belonging to four groups recognized by the International Committee for Virus Taxonomy: the Bromovirus and Cucumovirus groups whose genomes are encapsi- dated in small icosahedral particles or the Ilarvirus and alfalfa mosaic virus groups with spheroidal or bacilliform particles. In addition to their tripartite genomes, these viruses share a number of other properties and it has been proposed that they should perhaps be grouped in a single virus family for which the name Tricornaviridae has been suggested, the tri indicating the tripartite nature of the genome, the co emphasizing the cooperation of the three genome parts required to initiate infection, and the rna indicating that the genome is composed of RNA. Viruses of this "family" are less uniform in their biological proper- ties. A number of them are widespread, causing very destructive plant diseases. Viruses such as those of cucumber mosaic and alfalfa mosaic have very extensive host ranges and are responsible for serious crop losses in many parts of the world. Others such as prunus necrotic ringspot or prune dwarf viruses are more restricted in their host ranges but never- theless infect important perennial hosts such as stone fruits and reduce productivity considerably.
The Plant Viruses
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