Bees and other insects may be able to transfer an infectious plant virus found in melons, research by the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry has found.
A number of issues around the transfer of Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus (CGMMV), which was found on more than 20 Territory farms in 2014, are currently being researched by the DPI.
The research aims to help the 25 farms across the Northern Territory, which were placed under quarantine zones from October 2014 until February, to stop the spread of the virus.
Early research has found bees, which through their pollination of plants are vital to growing fruit, could play a role in transferring the virus.
Department of Primary Industry principal molecular scientist Lucy Tran-Nguyen said bees were tested because they played such an important role in cucurbit production.
"We did some bee hive surveillance and collected products that ranged from adult bees, brood, wax, honey — all the products that make up a bee hive," she said.
"[After testing] we found the live virus in bees, honey and pollen."
Ms Tran-Nguyen said it was possible, but not confirmed, that bees could transfer the virus from an infected plant to a non-infected plant.
Virus stays in soil, research finds
DPI research has also found the virus is still detectable in the soil where an infected plant has grown, for up to 12 months.
There is a high risk a cucurbit plant could be infected with the virus if it was planted back into infected soil within 12 months of a host plant being removed.
The DPI had recommended growers leave infected soil for up to two years before cucurbits should be planted again.
Ms Tran-Nguyen said a number of weed species were able to carry the virus.
"Weeds play a critical role in the cycle of the virus, and we have identified several species of weeds that do harbour the virus," she said.
"So it is really critical for growers to maintain their weeds on their properties."
The DPI is still working to find out if weeds can transmit the virus through their seeds.
With two years left in its research project, the DPI is also trying to identify viable, non-host crops that farmers could grow in virus-infected soil.