Asexually reproducing crops get infected by virus rapidly. It is because the vegetative propagules from virus infected plants contain virus particles but the shoot apical meristem and some young tissue surrounding them are often free from viruses. Meristem culture is hence often useful in recovering virus free plants from virus infected plants or clones.
This application of meristem culture is important in maintenance of breeding materials and germplasm exchange which are very important in any breeding programme.
Thermotherapy is based on the fact that most viruses are killed at temperature much below those, which kill their host plants; it is effective against isometric and thread like viruses and against Mycoplasma. It is often combined with meristem culture to obtain virus free plants in which shoot-tip are excised from heat-treated plants and large explants can be safely taken from them.
Prolonged exposure to a temperature lower than 5째C followed by shoot-tip culture is known as cryotherapy. It is preferable than heat treatment as it is less injurious to plants and more effective in virus elimination.
Addition of chemicals like Virazole, Cycloheximide, Actinomicine-D, into the culture medium which interferes with virus multiplication by curing the shoot-tips for viruses is known as chemotherapy.
Sometimes plants obtained by different cultures are not virus free; such plants have to be tested for the presence of concerned viruses by the process of virus-indexing. Serological test, DNA or RNA probes or ELISA can be done for the same.
Virus free stocks are maintained in insect free glass-houses or cages. It is necessary to prevent reinfection by the viruses.
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