New virus causing severe losses within tomato and pepper crops globally

Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV), is a newly emerging seed-borne virus in the genus Tobamovirus.

The Agricultural Research Council – Plant Health and Protection (ARC-PHP) said this virus is causing severe losses within tomato and pepper crops globally. Major symptoms include a mosaic pattern on the leaves, distortion of leaves and brown and/or wrinkly spots on fruits.

Research Team Manager at ARC-PHP, Dr Elna van Der Linde, said due to the potential economic impact of the virus, it is essential that planting material be certified free from this virus, for trade purposes.

“The Taqman RT-qPCR assay, as described in the international Seed Federation (ISF March 2020), was optimized, and is now readily available at the ARC-PHP Virology Laboratory, which is registered with DALRRD. Test results will be available within two weeks after receipt of the samples.”

Mzansi Agri Talk sought clarity regarding the virus from ARC and Dr Van Der Linde responded as follows:

Q: Has this virus been detected in South Africa and how far and wide has it spread?

A: It has not yet been detected in South Africa.

Q: At what stage of the plant growth does the virus become visible on the plants itself?

A: Viral symptoms are mainly observed on mature plants.

Q: You have mentioned that the virus is causing severe damage with the tomato and pepper crops globally. Is there any treatment available for the virus yet? Or is it only preventable by making sure that planting material be certified free from this virus.?

A: There are no treatments for plant viruses. The best way to control viruses is to use plant material that is certified virus-free and to control the insect vectors that transmit the virus.

Q: What should farmers do once they notice infected plants?

A: Farmers are encouraged to submit samples showing symptoms to ARC-PHP for analyses. Once it is identified as positive, all plant material should be removed and incinerated.  It is good practice to regularly scout for virus symptoms and insects and apply good weed control.

Q: Is it safe for people to consume fruits from such plants?

A:  Yes, it is. The virus only affects the plant host. Fruit may show some symptoms, but can be eaten. It has no influence on human health; humans are not a host for the virus.

Detection of Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV) using RT-qPCR assay is available at ARC–PHP. For more information interested parties contact Research Team Manager Dr Elna van Der Linde

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