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'Devastating' virus threatens UK tomatoes

UK tomatoes and peppers are under threat from a virus that could be “devastating” for crops. The virus results in unsellable fruit and can affect up to 100 per cent of stock, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), which represents growers, has said.

TOMATOES AND PEPPERS AT RISK

First identified in Israel in 2014, outbreaks of tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) been now been confirmed in Germany, posing a potential risk to UK production.

UK growers, glasshouse and packhouse staff are being urged to stay “vigilant” and look for symptoms of the virus, which the AHDB warned could be “devastating to UK crops of tomatoes and peppers”.

The tomato is the major host of ToBRFV but sweet pepper can act as a minor host too.

‘SUBSTANTIAL ECONOMIC IMPACT’

British tomato production amounts to about 92,000 metric tonnes per year – about a fifth of the total volume of tomatoes sold in the country annually, according to the British Tomato Growers’ Association.

Should the virus spread to the UK it would have a “substantial economic impact”, the AHDB predicted.

“While the virus isn’t yet in the UK, we are mobilizing resource to make sure that the industry [is] aware of the possible symptoms,” said Nathalie Key of the AHDB.

“It’s important growers are aware of hygiene protocols to minimize the risk of infection.”

VIRUS SPREADS RAPIDLY

Adrian Fox, senior plant virologist at the Food and Environment Research Agency, said: “Tomato brown rugose fruit virus has the potential to spread rapidly by plant handling and cutting and also via bumblebees during pollination.

“UK growers need to be vigilant for symptoms. Applying good hygiene measures should help to reduce the risk of spread within a glasshouse, should an outbreak occur.”

Symptoms to look out for include mosaic staining of the leaves, discoloured fruit with yellow spots and deformed fruits.

Source: Hortibiz



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