There are many types of plant viruses, and some are even asymptomatic. Normally plant viruses only cause a loss of yield. Therefore, it is not economically viable to try to control them, the exception being when they infect perennial species, such as fruit trees.

Most plant viruses have small, single stranded RNA genomes. These genomes may only encode 3 or 4 proteins: a replicase, a coat protein, a movement protein to allow cell to cell movement though plasmodesmata and sometimes a protein that allows transmission by a vector.

Plant viruses must be transmitted from plant to plant by a vector. This is often by an insect (for example, aphids), but some fungi, nematodes and protozoa have been shown to be viral vectors.