Hop Latent Viroid – What is it, why you should care, and how to keep your facility safe

September 24, 2022 | 11:45 am | Room 2 | Cultivation

Pathogens are a critical barrier to successful cannabis cultivation.  While multiple pathogens impact cannabis, Hop Latent Viroid (HLVd) represents one of the most damaging. Because this  pathogen can initially present asymptomatically and spread undetected through a facility, HLVd can destroy an entire harvest(s), resulting in catastrophic economic consequences for a cultivator. With confirmed cases of HLVd infected cannabis throughout the United States and internationally, effective management of this pathogen is an obligatory consideration to stay competitive in the cannabis industry. Steps can be taken to prevent HLVd damage.  However, these actions require a basic understanding of viroid biology/life cycle and a solid grasp of effective testing procedures and schedules.  In this talk Dr. Tassa Saldi will provide a laymen overview of viroid biology including how viroids differ from more familiar pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and fungus.  Preliminary data addressing many critical questions will be presented including: the frequency of seed transmission and variation of viroid load throughout a cannabis plant. Routes of HLVd transmission will also be discussed as well as effective and ineffective chemicals for removing viroid contamination.  Because no effective cure for HLVd currently exists, rigorous preventative testing is the best defense.  Dr. Saldi will give an overview of the various HLVd testing options and what a cultivator should look for when choosing a testing lab.  Finally, recommendations regarding sample collection, ideal HLVd testing schedules and how to mitigate losses from HLVd when it is found in a facility will be reviewed.

Tassa Saldi, Chief Science Officer, TUMI Genomics

Dr. Tassa Saldi is an accomplished molecular biologist with almost 25 years of research experience in RNA biology, infectious disease, and molecular pathogen detection. Dr. Saldi completed her graduate and post-doctoral studies at the University of Colorado, where she was awarded a prestigious fellowship from the American Cancer Society and was one of eighteen doctoral fellows nationwide invited to present her research at the Aspen Cancer Conference.  She has authored more than 20 peer-reviewed articles in top tier journals. During the pandemic, Dr. Saldi directed the COVID-19 testing lab at the University of Colorado where she helped to design and implement multiple qPCR assays to detect SARS-CoV-2 later submitted to the FDA for approval. As the Chief Science Officer of TUMI Genomics, Dr. Saldi and her team have designed qPCR tests for the detection of numerous cannabis pathogens, including Hop Latent Viroid (HLVd).  In collaboration with Texas A&M University, she and her team are conducting research aimed at understanding the biology and mode of transmission of HLVd in cannabis, including characterizing the rate of seed transmission, understanding viroid travel through plant tissue and characterizing viroid load throughout the plant. These and other studies are aimed at increasing the understanding of HLVd pathogenesis specifically in cannabis, which will allow the development of data-driven guidelines to prevent spread and economics loss due to the devastating pathogen.