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Saman Soltaninejad Over the past 15 years, Sam has worked in vegetables and ornamental production in both controlled environments and outdoor cultivation from Asia to Europe and now in Canada. Sam has been involved with various R&D projects in research institutes and commercial facilities in regards to innovative and sustainable agriculture. In different positions, he has gained valuable experiences in artificial lighting, hydroponic production, conducting trials, and facilities management. Maximizing production and sustainable agri-food systems has always been his passion. He combines his multicultural and international experiences and skills with knowledge of horticulture to pursue his passion.
Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) has emerged as one of the most serious threats to global production in decades. Greenhouses and other indoor environments that require frequent crop handling are most at risk, as the virus is highly transmissible and can live on surfaces—like plant debris, clothing, tools and machinery—as well as in the soil—for up to several months.
ToBRFV has the ability to overcome the resistance in current cultivars based on their genetic makeup. Without a natural defense against ToBRFV, entire harvests are at risk if the virus is introduced into an environment, threatening total loss of production and revenue.
Other factors also significantly hinder growers’ ability to identify, prevent or eliminate the virus.
Preventative measures every tomato grower needs to adopt immediately
As with any virus or disease, prevention is always the best course of action. Enhanced sanitation protocols simply need to become a part of every tomato grower’s standard operating procedures until new genes resistant to the virus are introduced to the market. That milestone, however, is still years away, so growers have to stay diligent and hyper-attentive on everything from disinfection measures to crop handling to waste disposal.
Here are some immediate actions to implement:
No operation will be completely safe from contamination, and the additional operational expenses incurred to prevent the spread of ToBRFV could be significant. But remember, it is better to make that investment now than to risk total production and revenue loss in the future.
How to identify and diagnose tomato brown rugose fruit virus Daily visual inspection is always the first step but never the only one. Growers should regularly examine the leaves, stem, petioles and calyces, and fruits for symptoms.
In cases where you suspect a plant or area of your operation has been infected, a three-pronged testing approach is needed. First is visual inspection. Growers should conduct striptests to confirm the presence of a tobamovirus, and further testing can reveal which tobamovirus is infecting the plants. Other ways to identify and diagnose ToBRFV include AmpiFire from Agdia and molecular tests such as ToBRFV RT-PCR or q-PCR, the ELISA test, and sequencing. Due to the possibility of false positives from striptests, multiple avenues (especially molecular tests) are best.
For a full list of steps and procedures, you can read the most recent update and response plan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture here.
How to dispose of infected crops and eradicate the virus:
Do not, under any circumstances, compost plants or materials infected with the virus. The USDA recommends burning or steaming infected materials, with a minimum internal temperature of 212 °F (100 °C), then burying any remaining materials in a landfill.
Alternatively, use plastic bags thicker than 2 mil, double bag the infected plants, containers and materials, all leaf debris in and around the infected area, and bury the bags at a depth of more than 6 feet on-site, at a USDA-approved site, or a municipal landfill.
Researchers have identified a genotype in tomatoes that is highly resistant to ToBRFV, as well as 28 genotypes that have intermediate resistance. Until those seeds are introduced to the global market—which is likely still years away—diligent observation, regular testing, proper disposal and thorough sanitation are the only weapons growers will have to protect their crops, operations and revenue.