Tomato brown rugose fruit virus: Outbreak management and reporting
Find out about UK and international outbreaks, and what to do in the event of an outbreak.
As of June 2020, there have been six reported outbreaks of ToBRFV on commercial tomato production sites in England. The first outbreak took place in 2019, which has now been declared as eradicated, following the implementation of eradication measures and subsequent inspection and testing.
In the UK, ToBRFV has also been intercepted on imported tomato and pepper seed, and on imported fruit destined for retail.
How were the outbreaks reported?
The outbreaks were promptly reported to the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) and necessary steps were taken towards virus eradication.
Propagators and growers are advised to review their production protocols, particularly regarding imports of seed and plants, and crop hygiene, to help mitigate against the further spread of this virus.
How has the virus spread?
After ToBRFV was first described from tomato crops in Israel in 2014, the virus spread in tomato greenhouses almost nationwide within the period of one year after the first outbreak reports. The virus has since been reported in tomato and sweet pepper crops around the world, including Jordan, Mexico, Italy, Greece and the Netherlands.
For UK updates of outbreaks, visit the Defra Plant Health Portal.
For up-to-date information on international outbreaks of this virus, visit the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) global database.
To receive monthly outbreak updates, visit EPPO’s reporting service to subscribe to the mailing list.
What to do in the event of a suspected outbreak
The main advice is to implement good hygiene measures as a matter of course; be vigilant for any unusual symptoms in the crop, and report any symptoms to a manager, if suspected.
It is a statutory requirement that any suspected outbreaks of a notifiable viroid or virus in a tomato or pepper crop, or any other non-native plant pest, are reported to the relevant authority:
- For England and Wales, contact your local APHA Plant Health and Seeds inspector or
- Telephone the Plant Health Helpline: 0300 1000 313
- Email: email@example.com
- For Scotland, contact the Scottish Government’s Horticulture and Marketing Unit:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- For Northern Ireland, contact the DAERA Plant Health Inspection Branch:
- Telephone: 0300 200 7847
- Email: email@example.com
New EU emergency measures came into force on the 15th August 2020 to prevent the introduction into and spread within the EU of ToBRFV, which represents a significant strengthening of the previous measures implemented in 2019.
The regulation prohibits the introduction into, movement within, holding, multiplication and release of ToBRFV within the EU territory. The regulation also sets out requirements for the import and movement of tomato and pepper into and within the EU, extending the scope of the regulation to all pepper varieties (other than resistant varieties).
To read the full details of the measures, and how they affect you, please visit the Defra plant health portal via the link below:
Precautions taken by plant health inspectors
When plant health inspectors from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) visit an uninfected tomato or capsicum nursery, there are standard operating procedures for biosecurity, which they should abide by.
As minimum precautionary measures, inspectors must:
- Not have visited any nursery infected with ToBRFV in the past four weeks
- Not have visited another tomato/pepper production nursery or tomato/pepper packhouse, or conducted inspections of these fruit at import or wholesale sites in the last week
- Ensure that the visit is the first visit of the working day
- Arrive on site in a clean car and freshly laundered clothes
- Change into new disposable overall, overshoes and gloves before entering any production areas. If the nursery has more than one glasshouse to be inspected, these should be changed for new protected clothing between houses
- Only take essential sampling equipment onto site, i.e. new sample bags, tubes, marker pen, clean hand lens and sterilised knife
- Clean mobile phone with an alcohol wipe/gel prior to entry
- Try not to touch plants directly
- Adhere to any reasonable hygiene requirements being operated by the site, e.g. use of foot dips, replacing gloves between houses, etc.
- Not have fresh tomatoes in their packed lunch/sandwiches when undertaking this work
Additional measures will be considered on a case-by-case basis.